Measles Vaccination Timing Produces Benefits Beyond Measles

Measles vaccination after DTP3 dose lowered children mortality rate

A new measles research study found that the timing of a measles vaccine can have a significant, positive impact on children’s survival rate beyond protecting against measles infection.

This observational study reported that when the measles vaccine was administered as the last vaccine after the third dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccination, survival rates for measles-vaccinated children increased by 28 percent in the first 12 months of follow-up.

And, an 18 percent increased survival rate at five years of age.

The study also found a significantly stronger beneficial effect of measles vaccination for boys, in comparison to girls. The study's authors were unclear why there was a gender difference.

This study is important given measles outbreaks in various countries, including the USA.

Measles is one of the six childhood 'killer diseases' targeted by World Health Organization (WHO) mass immunization programs. 

This is the latest study looking at whether all-cause mortality is lower when a child's most recent immunization is a measles vaccine.

Using routine vaccination and survival data for more than 38,000 children involving an annual cohort of children aged 9-23 months from 1996-2012, using Cox proportional hazards models, the proportion of children in Ghana who received the measles vaccine after DTP3 increased from 45% in 1996 to 95% in 2012.

"Evaluations of immunization programs are usually based on the assumption that vaccines only protect against specific diseases," says the study's lead author, Dr. Paul Welaga from the Navrongo Health Research Centre in Ghana.

"Our new study adds to growing evidence that, when administered in the recommended sequence, measles vaccination helps to reduce child mortality through non-specific effects as well."

"When children in Ghana are not fully vaccinated, it is usually the measles vaccination which is missing," says Dr. Welaga. "Policymakers should ensure that children get vaccinated for measles after DTP3 because of the potential survival benefits."

In the USA, most measles cases can be traced from international travelers.

Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected with the measles virus, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The measles virus lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air and can infect people around him, says the CDC.

In the USA, two approved measles vaccines, MMR-II and ProQuad.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector MMR vaccine prices for general information.

Most pediatricians and pharmacies offer the MMR vaccine, and 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.

These researchers from Denmark and Ghana did not disclose conflicts of interest: Paul Welaga, Abraham Hodgson, Cornelius Debpuur, Peter Aaby, Fred Binka, Daniel Azongo and Abraham Oduro. This study was edited by Jimmy T. Efird, University of Newcastle, Australia.