15 September 2008
A study conducted by the Health Protection Agency has confirmed that the measles component of the MMR vaccine is highly effective in preventing measles infection.
Analysis of laboratory confirmed cases of measles estimated that one dose of MMR vaccine provides over 95% protection against measles, whereas two doses provide almost 100% protection. This confirms that the current UK policy is highly effective and that the main reason for the recent increase in measles is failure to vaccinate, rather than vaccine failure.
The study looked at surveillance of laboratory confirmed cases of measles between 2002 and 2007. During this time there were 1,794 laboratory confirmed cases of measles reported in children eligible for MMR vaccine. Cases from communities where vaccine uptake is known to be low were excluded as they are not representative of the general population. Of the remaining 786 reported cases of measles, 730 (93%) of those affected had received no MMR vaccine at all, 50 (6%) had received one dose of the vaccine. Only six cases (1%) had received two doses of the vaccine.
In January to March 2008, uptake of the MMR vaccine in the UK reached 84% uptake for the first dose but was only 76% for the second dose. This study reinforces the need for children to receive both doses of MMR vaccine to ensure optimal protection against measles infection. It confirms that the effectiveness of the measles component of the MMR vaccine is similar to that shown in the early clinical trials of measles vaccine. MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988 to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Consultant in Immunisation at the Health Protection Agency, said: "These results confirm that the current problems with measles cases are mainly due to children not receiving MMR vaccine. It reinforces the need for children and young adults to complete the recommended vaccine schedule to be fully protected. At the start of the school and college term it is important to make sure your child has received two doses of MMR to prevent them suffering from measles, mumps and rubella."
Measles is highly infectious and in community settings such as schools and colleges, where there is increased close contact, the infection can spread easily. The number of cases in 2007 was the highest number ever recorded since the current method of monitoring began in 1995. There were 990 laboratory confirmed cases of measles in 2007 and 740 in 2006.
Notes to Editors:
Last reviewed: 15 September 2008