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Indian measles vaccination campaign saved tens of thousands of lives

Published on 06/03/19 at 11:35am
Image Credit: CDC Global

A measles vaccination campaign saved tens of thousands of children’s lives in India between 2010 and 2013, according to a report published in the journal eLife.

The findings instil new hope that with continued diligence and high rates of immunisation, measles could be eliminated in India.

However the infection still remains a significant cause of mortality in children under five years old, with much of the burden of mortality and transmission carried in Asia and Africa.

“We know that measles deaths have declined in India, but what we did not know prior to this study is if the national measles campaign reduced child mortality rates,” explains first author Benjamin Wong, Epidemiologist at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto in Canada. “Until now, no studies had directly answered this question due to gaps in the available data.”

The current analysis suggests that the measles vaccine campaigns saved 41,000 to 56,000 children in India during 2010 to 2013, or 39%-57% of the expected number of deaths nationally.

Mortality in children aged between one and 59 months fell more in the campaign states following launch (27%) than in the non-campaign states (11%). Measles mortality risk was notably lower for children living in the campaign districts and those born between 2010-2013.

“Together, our results demonstrate the significant success of the measles vaccination campaigns in saving children's lives in India,” senior author Prabhat Jha, University of Toronto Chair in Global Health and Epidemiology, and Executive Director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St, Michael's Hospital, said. “We've shown that nationwide mortality studies that are representative of the population are an inexpensive and practical way to directly investigate the impact of interventions for other diseases in India and elsewhere.”

Louis Goss

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