Is Rafa Protected From Measles at the French Open?

French Open tennis tournament has not created a herd-immunity environment

tennis player on red clay court

When the world’s best clay court tennis player enters the Roland Garros stadium locker room this week, will he be at risk for measles?

Or from chickenpox? Or mumps?

According to several ‘unnamed’ pro tennis players attending the 2018 French Open, tournament officials have not yet created a safe, ‘herd-immunity’, environment.

Herd-immunity helps reduce everyone’s risk of contracting an infectious agent.

Herd-immunity is needed because according to the EU/EEA, 21 countries have confirmed 2,143 cases of measles for March 2018. 

Specifically, France reported ​753 cases.

Achieving herd-immunity is important since a new research study found 35 percent of USA pro athletes reported inadequate Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (MMRV) immunity.

This new research screened Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association players for serologic evidence of immunity to measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.

33 percent of athletes studied had inadequate immunity to 1 of the 4 viruses tested. 

Moreover, the younger players had a greater risk to varicella.

Which means, when developing an infectious disease prevention plan, it should include both catch-up vaccinations and an ‘avoidance’ tactic.

Among team doctors and physicians, there exists some uncertainty about the most appropriate vaccination regimens for pro athletes, said these researchers.

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A pro tennis player’s lifestyle might require a modified vaccination schedule. The timing of vaccinations should be chosen to minimize any interference with training or competition.

Also, pro tennis players should ‘avoid’ both disease-carrying mosquitoes and unaware, infected individuals.

The French Open tournament could easily reduce everyone’s infectious disease risk by deploying three simple tactics:

  • Notify all tennis players, ball kids, and staff that there is an ongoing measles epidemic in south-central France
  • Alert all French Open 2018 attendees of this measles outbreak,
  • Offer a vaccination clinic on the Roland Garros campus for interested players, staff and tennis fans.

Most pro athletes need protection against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and varicella, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

These diseases are easily prevented with vaccines. 

"When one thinks of sports-related injuries, infectious diseases don’t come to mind. But, the truth is, the sporting world is a breeding ground for vaccine-preventable illness," said Lauren A. Ragan, PharmD, Brookshires Grocery Company.

"With the high rate of travel to infectious breeding areas, it’s important to consider a vaccine regimen to prevent the possible collapse of an entire community from communicable illnesses," said Ragan. 

But, the risk from vaccine side effects have to be thoroughly balanced for each athlete, said these researchers.

In the USA, most pharmacies offer MMR/MMRV vaccines and vaccination appointments can be scheduled at this link.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector MMRV vaccine prices for general information, vaccine discounts can be found here. 

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.