Modeling the Transmission of Measles and Rubella to Support Global Management Policy Analyses and Eradication Investment Cases

Risk Anal. 2017 Jun;37(6):1109-1131. doi: 10.1111/risa.12831. Epub 2017 May 31.


Policy makers responsible for managing measles and rubella immunization programs currently use a wide range of different vaccines formulations and immunization schedules. With endemic measles and rubella transmission interrupted in the region of the Americas, all five other regions of the World Health Organization (WHO) targeting the elimination of measles transmission by 2020, and increasing adoption of rubella vaccine globally, integrated dynamic disease, risk, decision, and economic models can help national, regional, and global health leaders manage measles and rubella population immunity. Despite hundreds of publications describing models for measles or rubella and decades of use of vaccines that contain both antigens (e.g., measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine or MMR), no transmission models for measles and rubella exist to support global policy analyses. We describe the development of a dynamic disease model for measles and rubella transmission, which we apply to 180 WHO member states and three other areas (Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, and Macao) representing >99.5% of the global population in 2013. The model accounts for seasonality, age-heterogeneous mixing, and the potential existence of preferentially mixing undervaccinated subpopulations, which create heterogeneity in immunization coverage that impacts transmission. Using our transmission model with the best available information about routine, supplemental, and outbreak response immunization, we characterize the complex transmission dynamics for measles and rubella historically to compare the results with available incidence and serological data. We show the results from several countries that represent diverse epidemiological situations to demonstrate the performance of the model. The model suggests relatively high measles and rubella control costs of approximately $3 billion annually for vaccination based on 2013 estimates, but still leads to approximately 17 million disability-adjusted life years lost with associated costs for treatment, home care, and productivity loss costs of approximately $4, $3, and $47 billion annually, respectively. Combined with vaccination and other financial cost estimates, our estimates imply that the eradication of measles and rubella could save at least $10 billion per year, even without considering the benefits of preventing lost productivity and potential savings from reductions in vaccination. The model should provide a useful tool for exploring the health and economic outcomes of prospective opportunities to manage measles and rubella. Improving the quality of data available to support decision making and modeling should represent a priority as countries work toward measles and rubella goals.

Keywords: Control; disease outbreaks; dynamic modeling; eradication; measles; rubella.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computer Simulation
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / methods
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Measles / epidemiology
  • Measles / prevention & control*
  • Measles / transmission*
  • Measles Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic
  • Policy Making
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Rubella / epidemiology
  • Rubella / prevention & control*
  • Rubella / transmission*
  • Rubella Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • United States
  • Vaccination
  • World Health Organization
  • Young Adult


  • Measles Vaccine
  • Rubella Vaccine