Immunize Canada      Immunisation Canada


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Measles – contagious – preventable
Get Immunized.

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Measles, a severe illness caused by a virus, results in high fever, runny nose, cough, inflammation of the eyelid and a rash. It damages many parts of the body (damage to the cells lining the nose and throat cause the runny nose and sore throat, for example). Measles also weakens the immune system for months, leading frequently to ear infections and pneumonia. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) occurs in about 1 out of every 1000 cases, often resulting in brain damage. In rare cases, measles can trigger the development of a fatal brain disease called SSPE that develops years after the attack of measles.

The measles virus is highly contagious. Outbreaks in North America occur periodically in under-immunized populations. It is important to have the full series of immunization in childhood.

Measles – mumps  – rubella (MMR)

Adults born in 1970 or later: 1 dose, except travellers to destinations outside of North America, health care workers, students in post-secondary educational settings, and military personnel: 2 doses, at least 4 weeks apart. Adults born before 1970 can be assumed to have acquired natural immunity to measles and mumps and do not need MMR vaccination, except non-immune military personnel or health care workers (2 doses, at least 4 weeks apart), non-immune travellers (1 dose), non-immune students in post-secondary educational settings (consider 1 dose). Rubella-susceptible adults, regardless of age: 1 dose.

— Excerpt from: Canadian Immunization Guide. Evergreen edition. (external link)


Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Immunization Guide. Evergreen edition. (external link)

Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. (external link)

Capsule History

  • Before 1954 – In the pre-vaccine era, large epidemics occurred every 2 to 3 years. Almost everyone got measles. Every year in Canada, measles was responsible for 50 to 75 deaths, 5000 hospital admissions and 400 cases of encephalitis. The estimated annual cost of measles was over $70 million (1985 dollars).
  • 1954–63 – The measles virus was isolated and a vaccine was developed.
  • Since 1963– The number of cases has fallen by over 99% (from about 350,000 per year before 1963 to less than 2000 per year in 1995.)
  • 1995 – 2362 cases of measles were reported in Canada, leading to the eventual introduction of a “two-dose immunization” regimen. All provinces and territories also launched “catch-up” vaccination campaigns except New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
  • 1996 – The catch-up campaigns stopped three outbreaks developing in early 1996, resulting in only 327 cases reported in Canada for the year.
  • 1997 – Through an “importation.”* a measles epidemic started in British Columbia among students attending Simon Fraser University, spreading through the province. It primarily affected individuals aged 19 to 29 years.
  • New Brunswick was the last province to introduce a “two-dose” immunization schedule.
  • Since 1998 – Canada has had national, active measles surveillance in place since 1998. All provinces and territories report confirmed cases of measles weekly to the Public Health Agency of Canada who in turn report weekly to the Pan American Health Organization.

* “Importation” is defined as when a case has travelled from another country 7 to 21 days prior to the onset of rash and for whom there was no local exposure to measles.