DEAR DR. ROACH: In a recent column on the measles vaccine, you wrote: “Older people may lose immunity, and some people born between 1963 and 1967 may have received an inactive vaccine.” Wait, what?! How do we know if we were not properly vaccinated, and what should we do about it?

— L.T.

ANSWER: There were two types of measles vaccines available between 1963 and 1967. One type was a live, attenuated vaccine, and there were three strains given: the Schwarz, Edmonston B and Moraten strains. If given on or after the 1st birthday, these strains continue to provide lifelong immunity.

A second, killed vaccine was available only during those years, and was frequently given as a series of two or three injections. People who received the killed vaccine are at risk for developing a condition called atypical measles (an immune-mediated disease with high fevers, rash, and frequent lung symptoms) if they are exposed to a person with measles.

If you have your original vaccination record, it should say what type of vaccine you received. If it doesn’t, or if you received killed vaccine, you should consider yourself inadequately vaccinated. High antibody titers by blood testing is not sufficient.

Not everybody who is inadequately vaccinated needs to run out and get the vaccine. However, people planning international travel (there are several areas of measles outbreaks in Europe) or people who are in an area of the United States with measles outbreaks (New York and New Jersey had outbreaks in 2018) and at high risk for exposure (including first responders) should be revaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine (there is no single-dose measles vaccine).

DEAR DR. ROACH: Your recent article was pro-vaccination. I also have been pro-vaccination until recently, when my daughter brought to my attention that the vast majority of vaccines are made with aborted fetal tissue. I checked and found this to be the truth. I am appalled that this fact is not publicized and that I have had vaccines made with aborted fetal tissue. That I have unintentionally participated in the murder of innocent children through vaccination is a betrayal of my trust in the medical profession and my personal faith. You may find that this is the major reason for the decline in vaccination rates. There should be an informed consent before any vaccination occurs with the option of being vaccinated with a serum that is not contaminated with fetal tissue.

— J.G.

ANSWER: In July 1962, a pregnant woman was exposed to rubella, and underwent a therapeutic abortion given the high likelihood of severe fetal damage. The cells from this fetus (called WI-38, for the Wistar Institute) were used, and continue to be used, to produce the rubella vaccine, which requires a cell line. From this one fetus, over 300 million doses of rubella vaccine have been produced. It is certainly not the case that production of the vaccine requires any additional abortions, nor has there ever been fetal tissue in any vaccine, as vaccines are purified extensively.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center wrote an opinion, which states:

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

From one family’s tragedy came cells that have prevented 11 million deaths and 4.5 billion cases of disease. It is my position that using the vaccine honors that loss.

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Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected] or send mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.