As women vaccinated against measles transfer low amounts of antibodies, an increasing number of infants lack early protection through maternal antibodies until being immunised themselves. This paper reviews the literature on disease burden of measles in the population too young to be immunized according to the respective national recommendations during recent outbreaks in EU and EEA/EFTA countries. In addition, specific control strategies adopted to protect this young population are reviewed. Pubmed, Unbound Medline, Web of Knowledge and the Eurosurveillance database were searched using MESH terms: measles and epidemiology, measles and infants, prevalence of measles, measles and outbreaks and measles and epidemic. Additionally, data from Euvac.net and ECDC were consulted. Databases were searched from January 2001 to September 2011. Fifty-three papers were included in the analysis. The percentage of all measles cases during outbreaks affecting young infants ranged from 0.25% to 83.0%. Specific control strategies were adopted: e.g. administration of the first or second vaccine dose earlier than recommended. Infants younger than 12 months are often involved in measles outbreaks, and advancing the first vaccine dose could reduce the burden of disease. However, immunization before 9 months of age is not systematically recommended because of dysmature humoral immune responses of infants. High coverage and timely administration of the recommended series of vaccines are the most important measures to decrease measles incidence and measles circulation and protect vulnerable infants from infection.
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