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Measles Outbreak in a Vaccinated School Population
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Topics: Measles Outbreak Vaccine Failure

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Nkowane BM, et al (1987). Measles outbreak in a vaccinated school population: epidemiology, chains of transmission and the role of vaccine failures. Am J Public health. 1987 Apr;77(4):434-8.

An outbreak of measles occurred in a high school with a documented vaccination level of 98 per cent. Nineteen (70 per cent) of the cases were students who had histories of measles vaccination at 12 months of age or older and are therefore considered vaccine failures. Persons who were unimmunized or immunized at less than 12 months of age had substantially higher attack rates compared to those immunized on or after 12 months of age. Vaccine failures among apparently adequately vaccinated individuals were sources of infection for at least 48 per cent of the cases in the outbreak. There was no evidence to suggest that waning immunity was a contributing factor among the vaccine failures. Close contact with cases of measles in the high school, source or provider of vaccine, sharing common activities or classes with cases, and verification of the vaccination history were not significant risk factors in the outbreak. The outbreak subsided spontaneously after four generations of illness in the school and demonstrates that when measles is introduced in a highly vaccinated population, vaccine failures may play some role in transmission but that such transmission is not usually sustained.

So we have an almost 50% vaccine failure in those adequately vaccinated. Waning immunity did not appear to be a contributing factor. What this means is that whether a person was vaccinated fairly recently, or much earlier in their life, did not make any difference to level of risk for contraction of measles. And even "close contact with cases of measles in the high school, source or provider of vaccine, sharing common activities or classes with cases, and verification of the vaccination history" were not considered to be significant risk factors.


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