What Is the History of the Measles Vaccine?


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The measles vaccine became available in the United States in 1963. John F. Enders and Dr. Thomas C. Peebles began working to develop it in 1954, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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During a 1954 measles outbreak in Boston, Massachusetts, Enders and Peebles collected blood samples from ill students. They successfully isolated the measles virus in the blood of 13-year-old David Edmonston for use in creating a vaccine, explains the CDC. Prior to the availability of the measles vaccine, nearly all children experienced measles infection before the age of 15. Measles was responsible for three to four million infections in the United States each year; 48,000 hospitalizations; 4,000 cases of encephalitis, or swelling of the brain; and 400 to 500 deaths.

Enders and colleagues used the Edmonston-B strain of the measles virus to license a vaccine in the United States in 1963. In 1968, Maurice Hilleman and colleagues developed a new, better vaccine with an even weaker strain of the virus, called the Moraten or Edmonston-Enders strain. This is the vaccine used exclusively in the United States since 1968. As of 2015, the measles vaccine is most often combined with mumps and rubella, known as the MMR vaccine; or mumps, rubella and varicella, known as the MMRV vaccine, notes the CDC.

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