Vaccines are one of the hottest topics in healthcare. While they are highly debated, their effectiveness and safety have been demonstrated and vaccines have successfully eradicated some of the deadliest diseases the world has ever seen. Vaccines are commonly given starting at birth, and boosters and additional vaccines are required as a person gets older. Medicare benefits provide coverage for almost all available vaccines, including the MMR vaccine.

What is MMR?
MMR stands for measles, mumps, and rubella. All three of these diseases are viral in nature and can have severe negative effects on a person’s health.

The measles virus starts by causing a fever, runny nose, and cough before manifesting itself as a full-body rash. This virus also can make you more susceptible to pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea. It is estimated that nearly 90,000 people each year continue to die worldwide from the measles.

The mumps virus causes similar symptoms, which include fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, and swollen glands in the mouth. In severe cases, the mumps can lead to swelling of the brain, deafness, or swelling of the testicles or ovaries.

The rubella virus causes a fever, headache, eye irritation, sore throat, and rash. Additionally, almost half of teenage and adult women diagnosed with rubella are diagnosed with arthritis afterwards.

Each of these three diseases spreads easily from person to person. In fact, the measles can spread through the air, meaning that you don’t even have to come in direct contact with a person. The measles can stay active in the air for up to two hours, so you may not even see the person who was initially infected.

How Does the MMR Vaccine Work?
The MMR vaccine contains attenuated versions of each of these three diseases. This means that the live viruses have been weakened in laboratories to inhibit their ability to cause disease. However, even though they are weakened, your body is still able to make antibodies against the virus when it is injected into your body. These antibodies can then be stored within the body and activated quickly if they are ever exposed to the virus again to prevent disease from occurring.

The MMR vaccine is most commonly given to children in two doses: the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at four to six years of age. These two doses provide immunity for the child against these diseases. If a child is planning to travel internationally when only a few months old, an MMR dose can be given earlier to provide protection against the diseases, but the other two doses should still be received to provide permanent immunity.

While normally given to children, adults can also receive the MMR vaccine. Getting the vaccine may be especially important for adults who are living in an area where an outbreak has been reported, are students or employees at a university or trade school, travel internationally, or work in healthcare facilities.

For adults, two doses are still required, but only four weeks are needed between the doses. Additionally, even if you already got the vaccine, you may want a booster if you received a vaccine with the less effective “killed” virus instead of the current one using the live attenuated virus.

Does Medicare Cover the MMR Vaccine?
Medicare benefits provide coverage for many vaccines and immunizations. There are vaccinations that are covered by Medicare Part B, including influenza vaccines, pneumonia vaccines, and hepatitis B shots. Other vaccines and immunizations are covered by Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

Medicare Part D is an additional plan that you can add to your Original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. Part D is primarily responsible for covering the cost of prescription medications. Vaccines may be covered under Medicare because they are preventive and deemed to be “medically necessary” to avoid contracting these harmful diseases.

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