Background: In early 1988 an outbreak of 84 measles cases occurred at a college in Colorado in which over 98 percent of students had documentation of adequate measles immunity (physician diagnosed measles, receipt of live measles vaccine on or after the first birthday, or serologic evidence of immunity) due to an immunization requirement in effect since 1986.
Methods: To examine potential risk factors for measles vaccine failure, we conducted a retrospective cohort study among students living in campus dormitories using student health service vaccination records.
Results: Overall, 70 (83 percent) cases had been vaccinated at greater than or equal to 12 months of age. Students living in campus dormitories were at increased risk for measles compared to students living off-campus (RR = 3.0, 95% CI = 2.0, 4.7). Students vaccinated at 12-14 months of age were at increased risk compared to those vaccinated at greater than or equal to 15 months (RR = 3.1, 95% CI = 1.7, 5.7). Time since vaccination was not a risk factor for vaccine failure. Measles vaccine effectiveness was calculated to be 94% (95% CI = 86, 98) for vaccination at greater than or equal to 15 months.
Conclusions: As in secondary schools, measles outbreaks can occur among highly vaccinated college populations. Implementation of recent recommendations to require two doses of measles vaccine for college entrants should help reduce measles outbreaks in college populations.