The challenge of improving the efficacy of measles vaccine

Acta Trop. 2003 Jan;85(1):1-17. doi: 10.1016/s0001-706x(02)00261-9.


Despite a safe and effective measles vaccine, measles still claims an estimated 800,000 lives per year mostly among children in developing countries. This paper deals with strategies to improve vaccine efficacy and prevent unnecessary deaths, including considerations of one dose at 9 months strategy for developing countries, strain of vaccine, potency and number of doses of measles vaccine. After more than 20 years of measles immunisation in the developing world, the epidemiology of measles is radically changed, and the absence of measles epidemics might lead to waning immunity due to less clinical and subclinical infections boosting the antibody level. An increasing proportion of mothers are vaccinated, thus transferring a lower maternal antibody level to their infants who will be susceptible to measles at a younger age. The strategies to limit nosocomial measles infection and spread of measles epidemics are reviewed. Though the measles elimination programmes have been very effective in the Americas, it seems unlikely that they will be equally effective in the rest of the world. Even if eradication should be possible, it might be unwise to stop measles vaccination because the vaccine apparently has beneficial effects and because it would make measles a likely weapon for bio-terrorism. If we are unlikely to get rid of measles and measles vaccine, it might be wise to study further some of the many unanswered questions regarding the long-term effects of measles and measles vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Measles / immunology
  • Measles / mortality
  • Measles / prevention & control*
  • Measles Vaccine* / administration & dosage
  • Measles Vaccine* / genetics
  • Measles Vaccine* / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccination
  • Vitamin A / pharmacology
  • World Health Organization


  • Measles Vaccine
  • Vitamin A