Non-specific effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and measles vaccinations? An analysis of surveillance data from Navrongo, Ghana

Trop Med Int Health. 2012 Dec;17(12):1492-505. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2012.03093.x. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Objectives: Studies from low-income countries have suggested that routine vaccinations may have non-specific effects on child mortality; measles vaccine (MV) is associated with lower mortality and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) with relatively higher mortality. We used data from Navrongo, Ghana, to examine the impact of vaccinations on child mortality.

Methods: Vaccination status was assessed at the initiation of a trial of vitamin A supplementation and after 12 and 24 months of follow-up. Within the placebo group, we compared the mortality over the first 4 months and the full 2 years of follow-up for different vaccination status groups with different likelihoods of additional vaccinations during follow-up. The frequency of additional vaccinations was assessed among children whose vaccination card was seen at 12 and 24 months of follow-up.

Results: Among children with a vaccination card, more than 75% received missing DTP or MV during the first 12 months of follow-up, whereas only 25% received these vaccines among children with no vaccination card at enrollment. Children without a card at enrollment had a significant threefold higher mortality over the 2-year follow-up period than those fully vaccinated. The small group of children with DTP3-4 but no MV at enrollment had lower mortality than children without a card and had the same mortality as fully vaccinated children. In contrast, children with 1-2 DTP doses but no MV had a higher mortality during the first 4 months than children without a card [MRR = 1.65 (0.95, 2.87)]; compared with the fully vaccinated children, they had significantly higher mortality after 4 months [MRR = 2.38 (1.07, 5.30)] and after 2 years [MRR = 2.41 (1.41, 4.15)]. Children with 0-2 DTP doses at enrollment had higher mortality after 4 months (MRR = 1.67 (0.82, 3.43) and after 2 years [MRR = 1.85 (1.16, 2.95)] than children who had all three doses of DTP at enrollment.

Conclusions: As hypothesised, DTP vaccination was associated with higher child mortality than measles vaccination. To optimise vaccination policies, routine vaccinations need to be evaluated in randomised trials measuring the impact on survival.

Keywords: difteria‐tétano‐pertusis; diphtheria‐tetanus‐pertussis; diphtérie‐tétanos‐coqueluche; efectos no específicos; effets non spécifiques; measles; mortalidad; mortality; mortalité; non‐specific effects; rougeole; sarampión; vaccines; vaccins; vacunas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Mortality*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine / pharmacology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Ghana / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Measles Vaccine / pharmacology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Survival Analysis


  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine
  • Measles Vaccine