Expert panel debates younger age for MMR vaccine

An expert panel is debating a potential change in federal immunization guidelines to drop the age of the first routine measles vaccination to six months for infants traveling to measles-prone areas.

The working group from for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking experts about the possible move for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination. The debate is partly the result of a recent CDC report that found imported measles damages efforts in the U.S. to sustain the elimination of endemic measles, Family Practice News reports.

"We probably aren't going to change them very much, but one of the things we've been debating very strongly is whether or not we should recommend that if your child is under 12 months of age and going to an area where there's measles, should the child get vaccinated?" Yvonne Maldonado, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stanford, said, according to Family Practice News reports.

There were 222 cases of measles reported in 2011 in the United States, 72 of which were imported from 20 to 22 countries. The number of cases was the highest since 1996.

"That may not seem like a high number, but remember that measles is one of the most - if not the most - infectious viruses that we know of that affects humans," Maldonado said, according to Family Practice News.

Current vaccination recommendations call for the first routine MMR vaccination to occur in infants aged 12 to 15 months. Infants traveling abroad are eligible for the vaccine as early as six months.

"I think there's not enough awareness about families bringing in their children for pre-travel immunization updates," Maldonado said, according to Family Practice News. "That's something that's really important. If you have children in your practice who are going to be traveling, it would be helpful if you would update the parents about what vaccinations they should be receiving."