High-titer measles vaccination before 9 months of age and increased female mortality: do we have an explanation?

Semin Pediatr Infect Dis. 2003 Jul;14(3):220-32. doi: 10.1016/s1045-1870(03)00037-2.


In 1989, high-titer (HT) Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine with a titer more than 10(4.7) plaque-forming-units was recommended by the World Health Organization for use in areas with a high incidence of measles in children younger than 9 months. In 1992, the recommendation was rescinded following reports from Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Haiti showing an increased incidence of female mortality occurring after administration of HT Edmonston-Zagreb vaccination. We reviewed 9 studies of HT measles vaccines that reported data on mortality. These reports included 4 randomized trials comparing HT vaccine administered to children younger than 9 months with standard-titer (ST) vaccines (10(3.0) to 10(4.0) plaque-forming-units) given at 9 months of age. Five studies from Zaire, Haiti, Senegal, Rwanda, and Zaire had no control group receiving ST vaccine at 9 months of age, but investigators were able to examine the female-to-male mortality ratio within these HT studies. Investigators have hypothesized that HT vaccine had caused immune suppression similar to that of measles infection. The present review suggests first that the HT vaccine itself is unlikely to be the cause because the effect was not found in all studies. Second, the increased mortality started only after 9 to 10 months of age when controls received ST measles vaccine, and HT groups received the "control vaccine." It was not found in the studies that provided another measles vaccine instead of control vaccine. Third, because the HT studies with excess mortality rates showed increased female mortality rates, we need to find environmental or contextual conditions associated with increased female mortality rates in some studies to explain the problem associated with HT measles vaccination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Haiti / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Immunization Schedule*
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Male
  • Measles Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Measles Vaccine / adverse effects*
  • Mortality*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sex Factors


  • Measles Vaccine