Research Article

Immunity to rubella in women of childbearing age in the United Kingdom.

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 19 November 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:1301
  1. N. D. Noah,
  2. S. E. Fowle
  1. Public Health Laboratory, Service Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London.


    In the first three years of a surveillance scheme for susceptibility to rubella in women aged 15-44 the results of over 1.3 million serological tests were collected by 80 laboratories throughout the United Kingdom. Seventy eight per cent of the results, or an average of 340,000 a year, were from pregnant women, so that just under half of all pregnant women in the United Kingdom were reported on. Eighteen per cent of results were from women tested before vaccination and the remainder were from diagnostic and other tests. Pregnant women showed an overall downward trend in susceptibility to rubella (from 4.2% at the beginning of 1984 to 3.0% at the end of 1986), and a similar decline was seen in the two other categories. Regional data showed a significant negative correlation between the proportion of pregnant women aged 15-19 who were susceptible to the virus and rate of uptake of vaccine in 14 year old schoolgirls. Women aged 25-29 were least susceptible. This form of laboratory surveillance is feasible and representative; it should be continued to monitor the effect of introducing the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.