Measles is a serious disease that can cost millions of life from an outbreak and it is easily spread through coughs and sneezes from the infected people. Major epidemics usually occur approximately every two to three years and it would bring an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.
With the discovery of vaccine in 1963, the fatal counts had reduced tremendously until today. However, the number is yet to be proud of as the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018 with mostly children under the age of five years old.
With vaccination for measles accessible worldwide, the next question in line is how early should a person receive artificial immunity. To address this issue University of Michigan School of Public Health Research Assistant Professor Dr Abram Wagner shared his study conducted with 891 pairs of infant and mother in Tianjin, China and 400 pairs in Chandigarh, India. Dr Wagner was in UTAR Sungai Long Campus to share his study findings on the degradation of maternal antibodies in infants on 21 February 2020.
Dr Wagner during the talk
“An infant is not vaccinated at birth because they have maternal antibodies to protect them,” said Dr Wagner. With different regulations in different countries, the earliest measles vaccination given to an infant is at six months old. The reason it is not given too early may also be due to the possibility that babies may not respond well to the vaccinations.
The concern, however, was raised through the study conducted in Chandigarh where less than half of the 400 pair of participants were still protected by the maternal immunity after three months. In other words, there are a few months where the infants will be left unprotected until they receive their first vaccination.
As a way to overcome this, Dr Wagner suggested an early measles vaccination at four months old, without replacing the vaccination that will be received later on at nine or twelve months old. Despite being a possible solution, the idea came with its own drawbacks. Adding another vaccination in the existing schedule would mean additional cost, and it can be a significant amount especially to developing countries.
“Perhaps the mother can be vaccinated more but we still do not know if it will increase the immunity in the baby,” said Dr Wagner.
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Clinical Assoc Prof Dr Myo Oo (right) presenting a token of appreciation to Dr Wagner