Background: Measles and oral polio vaccinations may reduce child mortality to an extent that cannot be explained by prevention of measles and polio infections; these vaccines seem to have beneficial non-specific effects. In the last decades, billions of children worldwide have received measles vaccine (MV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV) through campaigns. Meanwhile the under-five child mortality has declined. Past MV and OPV campaigns may have contributed to this decline, even in the absence of measles and polio infections. However, cessation of these campaigns, once their targeted infections are eradicated, may reverse the decline in the under-five child mortality. No randomized trial has assessed the real-life effect of either campaign on child mortality and morbidity. We present the research protocol of two concurrent trials: RECAMP-MV and RECAMP-OPV.
Methods: Both trials are cluster-randomized trials among children registered in Bandim Health Project's rural health and demographic surveillance system throughout Guinea-Bissau. RECAMP-MV is conducted among children aged 9-59 months and RECAMP-OPV is conducted among children aged 0-8 months. We randomized 222 geographical clusters to intervention or control clusters. In intervention clusters, children are offered MV or OPV (according to age at enrolment) and a health check-up. In control clusters, children are offered only a health check-up. Enrolments began in November 2016 (RECAMP-MV) and March 2017 (RECAMP-OPV). We plan 18,000 enrolments for RECAMP-MV with an average follow-up period of 18 months and 10,000 enrolments for RECAMP-OPV with an average follow-up period of 10 months. Data collection is ongoing. The primary outcome in both trials is non-accidental death or non-accidental first non-fatal hospitalization with overnight stay (composite outcome). Secondary outcomes are: non-accidental death, repeated non-fatal hospitalizations with overnight stay, cause-specific primary outcome, outpatient visit, and illness. We obtained ethical approval from Guinea-Bissau and consultative approval from Denmark.
Discussion: Cluster randomization and minimum risk of loss to follow-up are strengths, and no placebo a limitation. Our trials challenge the understanding that MV and OPV only prevent measles and polio, and that once both infections are eradicated, campaigns with MV and OPV can be phased out without negative implications on child health and survival.
Trial registration: NCT03460002.