Do We Need A Second Dose Of Measles Vaccine To Hamper The Disease?

The World Health Organization said that by the year 2017 about 85 percent of the world’s children were vaccinated against measles before turning one year old. Immunization campaigns around the world prevented 21.1 million deaths worldwide between the years 2000 to 2017. 

In stark contrast, the situation in developing countries such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria is bleak because access to immunization is still a challenge in these places. Approximately 8.1 million infants had not received the vaccine against measles according to data collected in 2017. This is why it comes as a surprise that in a wealthy nation like Australia, individuals injected with one or two doses had decreased immunity, showing signs of the eradicated disease in developed nations. 

A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases analyzed cases of measles forwarded to Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Service over a nine-year period (2008-2017). A total of 297 cases were reported. Of which, 190 were part of the analysis. Majority of the cases did not have the immunity to beat the disease at the diagnosis stage. That is to say, 151 out of 190 cases, or 80 percent, had not been immunized and 26 or 4 percent of the cases had undetermined causes. 

The shocking revelation of the study was that 13 cases or 7 percent of the 190 cases had reported “waning immunity” between 2014-2017, implying they could have received vaccination already. Of them, 7 cases had confirmed to the hospital that they were vaccinated against measles in the past. 

The measles vaccine in Australia has been around for the last 50 years with the single dose’s efficacy established at 96.7 percent. Sinxe it was not very common in the '80s to get vaccinated, most older Australians are probably not immune to measles. There seems to be a public health risk due to these individuals, for 54 percent of the cases were contracted from fellow Australians who did not leave the country. 

Measles Vaccine A health worker prepares a MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at Hakimpara refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on November 18, 2017. Two dosages are not enough to keep the disease at bay in certain cases found by an analysis of reported cases to Victoria’s Department of Health and Human service from 2008-2017. Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

In the past, a second vaccine provided 99.7 percent efficacy in treating the disease that is evidenced in rashes all over the body. However, the study has changed this perception after it was found that antibodies did not multiply when the vaccinated patients came into contact with another patient with measles. 

“Normally, if people have documented receiving two doses of measles vaccine we would be confident they won’t contract measles, but that’s getting grayer – this research has demonstrated some vaccinated people are getting measles,” The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Dr Katherine Gibney, an epidemiologist, said in a press release. 

She also advised clinicians to not restrict themselves to performing the serology test for detection of antibodies and to also use the PCR test to detect the virus itself. She added that the Australian government provides measles vaccination free of cost for older people. 

“Anyone who is unsure if they have had two doses of measles vaccine should see their doctor about getting an additional dose. In particular, adults born after 1965 might not have received two doses of measles vaccine during their routine childhood immunisation,” Gibney explained.