Measles vaccine increases child survival beyond protecting against measles

February 12, 2018, Frontiers

In the largest study to date on children in a low/middle income country, new research in Ghana finds that the timing of a measles vaccine in an overall vaccination schedule can have a profound impact on child survival rates beyond protecting against measles infection. The findings, published today in open access journal Frontiers in Public Health, suggest that measles vaccination in the recommended sequence may have made an important contribution towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing child mortality.

Measles—along with tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and poliomyelitis—is one of the six childhood 'killer diseases' targeted by World Health Organization (WHO) mass immunization programs. In addition to protecting against these diseases, previous studies suggest that these routine vaccines may provide other benefits that help to reduce child .

Some studies also suggest that the sequence of administering vaccines could be important. In particular, child mortality was shown to be lower when the came after the third diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) vaccination, as recommend by the WHO, compared to before DTP or given together with DTP.

The latest study extends this to look at whether all-cause mortality is lower when a child's most recent immunization is a measles . Using routine vaccination and survival data for more than 38,000 children over a 17 year period in northern Ghana, the researchers assessed mortality differences between children vaccinated against measles after the DTP3 vaccine and those who were not vaccinated against measles. Survival was assessed at two time points: within the first 12 months after the initial assessment of and until five years of age.

The researchers found that compared to measles-unvaccinated children, survival rates for measles-vaccinated children increased by a staggering 28% in the first 12 months of follow-up and 18% by five years of age. This effect was still present when children who had died from measles were excluded from the analysis—indicating that the measles vaccine has beneficial effects beyond direct prevention of measles.

"Evaluations of 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."

The proportion of children in Ghana who received the measles vaccine after DTP3 increased from 45% in 1996 to 95% in 2012. The authors suggest this improved measles vaccination coverage in the recommended sequence may have contributed towards the Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing .

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

The study also found a significantly stronger beneficial effect of measles vaccination for boys in comparison to girls. Measles unvaccinated boys had a 69% higher risk of dying during one year of follow-up and a 43% higher mortality rate when followed until 5 years of age. For girls, there was little difference. The study's authors say the reasons for this are unclear and recommend future studies to examine the sex-differential effect of measles vaccination on all-cause mortality.

Dr Welaga says that researchers should consider testing the effect of measles vaccines and other routine vaccines on all-cause mortality in randomized trials. "It may be that measles infection is eliminated in the near future and thus measles vaccination is de-emphasized—but if the non-specific beneficial effects of measles vaccination are indeed positive then we should consider continued vaccination even if is eradicated."

Explore further: Measles outbreak in Ukraine kills two

More information: Frontiers in Public Health, DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00028 , https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00028/full

Related Stories

Measles outbreak in Ukraine kills two

January 17, 2018
Two people, including a five-year-old child, have died this month in an outbreak of measles in Ukraine, where the vaccination rate is among the lowest in Europe, officials said Wednesday.

Incidence of measles in the United States

October 3, 2017
From 2001 to 2015, the overall annual incidence of measles in the United States remained extremely low (less than 1 case/million population) compared with incidence worldwide (40 cases/million population); relative increases ...

Measles outbreak identified in Minnesota is ongoing

July 18, 2017
(HealthDay)—An outbreak of measles has been identified in Minnesota, according to a report published in the July 14 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Low vaccination rates in Texas could result in measles epidemics

October 26, 2016
With almost 45,000 children in Texas with nonmedical or "reasons of conscience" exemptions to school immunization laws, an expert at Baylor College of Medicine outlines the possibility of diseases such as measles reappearing ...

Measles outbreaks underscore need for vaccination

June 16, 2014
With the number of measles cases in the United States hitting a 20-year high, pediatric infectious disease specialist Christina Hermos, MD, is frustrated by the "anti-science" movement against vaccination that underlies the ...

Annual measles death below 100,000 for first time: UN

October 26, 2017
The number of annual measles deaths worldwide fell below 100,000 for the first time in 2016, but a push for universal vaccine coverage has "stalled", the UN said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Tibetan sheep highly susceptible to human plague, originates from marmots

August 16, 2018
In the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, one of the region's highest risk areas for human plague, Himalayan marmots are the primary carriers of the infectious bacterium Y. pestis. Y. pestis infection can be transmitted to humans and ...

Autoimmunity plays role in development of COPD, study finds

August 16, 2018
Autoimmunity plays a role in the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study led by Georgia State University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center that analyzed human genome information ...

Scientists identify nearly 200 potential tuberculosis drug targets

August 16, 2018
Tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Nearly 2 million people die every year from this infectious disease, and an estimated 2 billion people are chronically infected. The only vaccine, developed almost ...

Reliable point-of-care blood test can help prevent toxoplasmosis

August 16, 2018
A recent study, performed in Chicago and Rabat, Morocco, found that a novel finger-prick test for infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy—and many other potential applications—is 100 percent sensitive ...

First mouse model to mimic lung disease could speed discovery of more effective treatments

August 16, 2018
The biggest hurdle to finding effective therapies for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) – a life-threatening condition in which the lungs become scarred and breathing is increasingly difficult – has been the inability ...

Anticancer drug offers potential alternative to transplant for patients with liver failure

August 15, 2018
Patients suffering sudden liver failure could in the future benefit from a new treatment that could reduce the need for transplants, research published today shows.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.