Immunogenicity of second dose measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and implications for serosurveillance

R G Pebody, N J Gay, L M Hesketh, A Vyse, P Morgan-Capner, D W Brown, P Litton, E Miller
Vaccine 2002 January 15, 20 (7): 1134-40
Measles and mumps, but not rubella, outbreaks have been reported amongst populations highly vaccinated with a single dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Repeated experience has shown that a two-dose regime of measles vaccine is required to eliminate measles. This paper reports the effect of the first and second MMR doses on specific antibody levels in a variety of populations.2-4 years after receiving a first dose of MMR vaccine at age 12-18 months, it was found that a large proportion of pre-school children had measles (19.5%) and mumps (23.4%) IgG antibody below the putative level of protection. Only a small proportion (4.6%) had rubella antibody below the putative protective level. A total of 41% had negative or equivocal levels to one or more antigens. The proportion measles antibody negative (but not rubella or mumps) was significantly higher in children vaccinated at 12 months of age than at 13-17 months. There was no evidence for correlation of seropositivity to each antigen, other than that produced by a small excess of children (1%) negative to all three antigens. After a second dose of MMR, the proportion negative to one or more antigens dropped to <4%. Examination of national serosurveillance data, found that following an MR vaccine campaign in cohorts that previously received MMR, both measles and rubella antibody levels were initially boosted but declined to pre-vaccination levels within 3 years. Our study supports the policy of administering a second dose of MMR vaccine to all children. However, continued monitoring of long-term population protection will be required and this study suggests that in highly vaccinated populations, total measles (and rubella) IgG antibody levels may not be an accurate reflection of protection. Further studies including qualitative measures, such as avidity, in different populations are merited and may contribute to the understanding of MMR population protection.

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