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Home News centre National Press Releases 2008 Press Releases ›  Study confirms measles component of MMR vaccine is highly effective

Study confirms measles component of MMR vaccine is highly effective

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:

  1. MMR vaccines are administered as part of the national immunisation programme at 12-15 months and at 3-5 years of age. There is no upper age limit and where required, two doses can be given separated by a three monthly interval.
  2. The Agency has reported year on year increases in cases of measles due to outbreaks in areas of the country where MMR uptake has dipped or been low for longer periods of time with some children becoming seriously ill. In June the Agency reported the second death from measles in the last two years.
  3. For further information about measles go to:
  4. Further information for parents and schools is available at: 
  5. Number of cases and deaths from in recent years:
  6. The Health Protection Agency's Annual Conference takes place at the University of Warwick from Monday, 15 September 2008 - Wednesday, 17 September 2008. Further information can be found at the conference website at
  7. The Health Protection 2008 conference press office can be contacted between 9am - 5pm on 024 765 72982; out of hours on 0208 200 4400.

Last reviewed: 15 September 2008