Serum titers are blood tests that measure whether or not you are immune to a given disease. More specifically a quantitative serum titer is a titer with a numerical value indicating your actual degree of immunity to a disease.
But what does this mean, and why would you consider having blood drawn for titers?
I am often asked the following questions by patients:
My child is partially vaccinated, but I don’t want to do any more after becoming more educated on the matter. And… I believe my child had an adverse reaction to the vaccines. What can I do to prove that my child is immune to the diseases that the state says are required?
Remember that every state, with the exception of California, allows religious and/or philosophical exceptions if a medical exemption is not warranted. Most laws also allow individuals to be exempted from vaccination or re-vaccination if proof of existing immunity for certain diseases can be shown. If a person has recovered from the natural disease or has been vaccinated, a blood titer test may indicate that there are enough naturally acquired or vaccine acquired antibodies to “prove” immunity to a particular disease.
There are two types of immunity a person can have:
1. Active Immunity
- The body’s immune system produces antibodies and cellular immunity which usually lasts for many years to a lifetime.
- Develops from surviving infection or by vaccination
- Every individual varies in response and production of antibodies
2. Passive Immunity
- Immunity transferred from one to another
- Develops from mother to infant or by blood product such as immune globulin
- This immunity usually only offers temporary protection during a period of weeks to months
Prior vaccinations do not have to be given for the body to build immunities. Antibodies are also made by exposure to the diseases, and in many cases, exposure does not mean that the child contracted the disease.
A positive titer test indicates immunity as a result of:
- being vaccinated
- becoming ill and recovering from the infection
- being exposed to someone with the infection but without having any symptoms of the disease
A blood titer test that measures antibody levels can cost $55 or more, depending on the disease. This may seem like a lot, but when it means not being forced into a vaccination, the price is not worth complaining over. Currently, there are titers available for the following:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella)
- Varicella (Chicken Pox)
- Diphtheria, Tetanus
- H. Influenza (HiB)
- Influenza A and B
- Pneumococcal vaccines
Elizabeth Cohen, senior medical correspondent for CNN’s Health, Medical and Wellness unit suggests checking titers various shots before doing boosters. She states:
“Some kids don’t need some of the booster shots at age 5 years because their original infant series may still be working just fine. While this is a costly and time-consuming approach, some parents prefer it instead of automatically getting all the boosters.”
This information pertains to adults as well. Titers can be done instead of most vaccinations required for work or travel.
According to Dr. Bob Sears:
A few examples of when titers can be useful include:
- If parents skip any vaccines in the early years, but wish to consider getting some vaccines at a later age, I recommend checking titers for measles, mumps, rubella, and Hep A around age 10. If these titers show immunity, you wouldn’t need the shot.
- If parents skip some shots, but state laws or other requirements mandate that they either get the shots or prove immunity to the disease, titers can be done to demonstrate the immunity.
- If a child had one dose of MMR or Chickenpox vaccine during infancy, but the parents are considering skipping (or delaying) the 5 year boosters, titers can be checked to see whether or not the child still has enough immunity from the first shot.
Just a friendly reminder: Since 1988 over 16,038 claims have been filed with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which was created in 1986 to compensate individuals and their families for injuries caused by vaccines. Total compensation paid since the program began is approximately $3.2 billion. Since only about one percent of serious vaccine injuries are officially reported, the true extent and cost of vaccine-associated damage on a population basis is likely to be much higher. Do your research and understand the diseases, the preventative options, keeping the body healthy, and the risks of what your decisions may include.