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Measles vaccine protects only 1 out of 5 children in Delhi: Study

Only one in five children,vaccinated for measles in Delhi,is actually protected against the disease,according to the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | New Delhi |
October 1, 2011 1:17:56 am

The study also raises questions on the timing of first immunisation at 9 months

Only one in five children,vaccinated for measles in Delhi,is actually protected against the disease,according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The study,which appeared in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR),examined antibody concentrations in children from Delhi for over a year. They had been given two measles vaccines as per the prescribed schedule.

According to Dr Sunil Gomber,professor of paediatrics at University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) and the principle investigator of the study,“We found that only 21.4 per cent of the children had seroprotection for measles (presence of antibodies against the viral infection). Four out of 5 children who were immunised as per the schedule in Delhi were still susceptible to measles.”

Incidentally,the immunisation programme of the Delhi government has adopted an extra Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine since 1999,administered to children between 15-18 months of age,in addition to the measles vaccine prescribed under the country’s universal immunisation programme at nine months. Thus,Delhi children are given an additional vaccine for measles to enhance the effect of the vaccine prescribed under the national programme.

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The study also found that immunity among children increased after another dose of MMR vaccine was administered. After the second dose of MMR (the third measles vaccine),it was found 72.6 per cent children were immune.

Thus,the conversion rate was a staggering 65.2 per cent,Dr Gomber said. For Mumps and Rubella,the protection percentage rose from 86.9 and 81 per cent to 100 per cent. However,the “durability” of this protection was not known,and required more epidemiological studies in the area,the study pointed out.

The study also raised questions on the timing of vaccine administration,considering that “persistent maternal antibodies” are present in the infant’s body at nine months of age. However,India had adopted the nine-month norm owing to high incidence of measles-related deaths among infants.

Meanwhile,several advisory bodies,including WHO,UNICEF and the National Technical Advisory Board for Vaccines,have recommended that a second dose of measles vaccine be administered to children at 18 months of age in states with more than 80 per cent coverage of the first vaccine. The study examined 103 children from GTB Hospital,who had documented evidence of their immunisation history.

A commentary by Jacob John and Valsan P Verghese from CMC Vellore says,“Obviously this (protection level) is unexpectedly low. The phenomenon deserves urgent investigation to determine if this finding is confirmable in further studies,first in Delhi and then in other regions.”

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