Background: In 2011, >750 cases of measles were reported in Quebec, Canada, where a routine 2-dose measles immunization schedule, in which measles vaccine is given at 12 and 18 months of age, had been in effect since 1996. Effectiveness of this schedule was assessed during a high school outbreak.
Methods: Cases were identified by passive followed by active surveillance. Classical cases met the national surveillance definition; attenuated cases showed clinical signs and high measles-specific immunoglobulin G but did not fulfill all classical criteria. Immunization status was ascertained from written records, and vaccine effectiveness (VE) was calculated as 1 - [(risk of measles in vaccinated individuals)/(risk in unvaccinated individuals)] × 100%.
Results: Among 1306 students, 110 measles cases were identified; 98 were classical cases, and 12 were attenuated cases. The attack rates among unvaccinated and fully vaccinated students were 82% and 4.8%, respectively. The VE among 2-dose recipients was 95.5% against classical and 94.2% against all (classical + attenuated) measles. Among 2-dose recipients, attack rates with first immunization at 12 and ≥15 months of age were 5.8% and 2.0%, respectively, with corresponding VE values of 93.0% and 97.5%. The risk of measles in 2-dose recipients was significantly (3-4-fold) higher when vaccine was first administered at 12 months of age, compared with ≥15 months of age (P = .04).
Conclusions: Despite compliance with the recommended 2-dose measles immunization schedule, 6% of high school students were susceptible during this outbreak. Residual susceptibility was 2-4-fold higher among 2-dose recipients who had received the first dose of vaccine prior to 15 months of age. If confirmed in other settings, these results suggest that administration of the first dose of measles vaccine before 15 months of age may not be optimal for measles elimination efforts.