Routine vaccinations associated with divergent effects on female and male mortality at the paediatric ward in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

Vaccine. 2005 Jan 19;23(9):1197-204. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2004.02.053.


Several studies have suggested that routine childhood immunisations may have non-specific effects on mortality. To examine which disease categories might be affected, we investigated whether immunisation status had an impact on the case fatality for hospitalised children. Between 1990 and 1996, the Bandim Health Project maintained a register of all children from the study area hospitalised at the paediatric ward of the central hospital in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. The study included 2079 hospitalised children aged 1.5-17 months coming from the Bandim study area. Among children whose vaccination card had been seen at admission, the case fatality ratio for measles-vaccinated children versus measles-unvaccinated children was 0.51 (0.27-0.98), the beneficial effect being significantly stronger for girls than for boys (test of interaction, p=0.050). The protective effect of measles vaccine remained unchanged when hospitalised measles cases were excluded from the analysis (0.49 (0.26-0.94)). The effect of measles vaccine was strongest for children with pneumonia (MR=0.28 (0.07-0.91)) and presumptive malaria (MR=0.40 (0.13-1.18)). For measles-vaccinated children, the female to male case fatality ratio was 0.54 (0.28-0.97). Among children having received diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) and oral polio (OPV) as the last vaccines, girls had higher case fatality than boys, the mortality ratio being 1.63 (1.03-2.59). The female to male ratios were significantly inversed for DTP and OPV versus measles vaccine (test of interaction, p=0.003). These results remained unchanged if 1-month post-discharge deaths were included in the analysis, and in multivariate analyses controlling for determinants of mortality. In conclusion, measles vaccine was associated with reduced mortality from diseases other than measles, the beneficial effect being stronger for girls than for boys. On the other hand, DTP and OPV vaccine were associated with higher case fatality for girls than for boys. Understanding the divergent non-specific effects of common vaccines may contribute to better child survival in developing countries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Confidence Intervals
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Guinea-Bissau / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Measles Vaccine / adverse effects
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral / adverse effects
  • Sex Distribution
  • Vaccination / mortality*


  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine
  • Measles Vaccine
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral