Up to 56,000 Lives Saved with Two-Dose Measles Campaign

In 2010, the Indian government launched a campaign to introduce a two-dose measles vaccine in districts where rates of single-dose vaccination were low. To study the campaign’s impact, Prabhat Jha at the University of Toronto in Canada and his colleagues analysed data from a large-scale study of mortality in India.

This study recently found the campaign saved the lives of tens of thousands of children between 2010 and 2013.

First author Benjamin Wong, Epidemiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto in Canada said:

“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. Until now, no studies had directly answered this question due to gaps in the available data.”

Wong and his team applied a novel statistical method to data from the Million Death Study (MDS) — a nationally representative sample of all deaths in India, which includes detailed interviews with families about child deaths. They examined 27,000 child deaths from 1.3 million households surveyed from 2005 to 2013.

During this period, the MDS captured deaths for 13,490 girls and 13,007 boys aged between one and 59 months old.

“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.” 


The team also found that the campaign was particularly successful for girls, as there was a steeper decline in the mortality rates of girls than boys in the vaccination campaign states during the three-year period.

Could measles be eliminated in India?

There have been substantial decreases in the number of deaths from measles over the last 30 years. However, the infection remains a significant cause of mortality in children under five years old globally, with much of the burden of mortality and transmission residing in Africa and Asia.

India was one of the last countries to adopt two doses of the measles vaccine as part of national immunisation programs but over the three years that followed the campaign’s launch, measles-related deaths among young children fell by 27% in districts where the campaign had been rolled out. With this in mind, the authors suggest that the elimination of measles in India could be feasible, although difficult, requiring continued efforts to increase vaccination rates and monitor mortality.

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