Papers And Originals

Effect of Measles Vaccination on Incidence of Measles in the Community

Br Med J 1971; 1 doi: (Published 27 March 1971) Cite this as: Br Med J 1971;1:698

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Ian Sutherland,
  2. P. M. Fayers


    A study of the effect of measles vaccination on the incidence of the disease in eight separate areas of England and Wales was begun in 1966. It showed an inverse association between the proportion of children vaccinated and the incidence of measles in the area in the following year, but measles epidemics occurred in several of the areas in subsequent years, despite continuing vaccinations.

    Measles vaccination was introduced on a large scale in Britain in 1968. Analysis of the notification and vaccination statistics shows that the vaccination of about 10% of the child population (under 15 years) in 1968 sufficed to “replace” the measles epidemic which had been expected in the period October 1968 to September 1969 by a low incidence of the disease, typical of that in previous “interepidemic” years. Further, the effect of the vaccinations was to prevent the development of natural measles in susceptible unvaccinated children as well as in the vaccinated subjects. Thus the number of immune subjects in the community was increased by the vaccinations, but as a result there was a reduction in the number of subjects who acquired immunity from natural measles. These opposed results can therefore explain why vaccination may be effective in the community for only a year or two, though vaccination protects the individual for much longer.

    It is estimated that a continuing vaccination rate of 40 to 50% of the children born each year would be necessary to replace the regular biennial measles epidemics in Britain by a continuous endemic incidence, and might perhaps lead to the disappearance of the disease without a further major epidemic, but that a continuing vaccination rate of 80 to 90% of children born each year would then be necessary to prevent its reintroduction. The long-term control of measles by vaccination will thus probably prove more difficult than for any other infectious disease.