Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com
The measles vaccine doesn’t just stop measles! Why do child death-rates drop when children get vaccinated for measles? A team of researchers did some detecting.
They went back all the way to the 1940s, and studied medical data from 4 different countries. Using computer models, results showed a strong link between measles and other infectious diseases! They found that the number of measles cases predicted the number of deaths from other infections – even up to two to three years later! It seems that the measles virus makes kids more vulnerable to all other infectious diseases for a few years.
Sudden drop in death rates
Their first clue: when the US began vaccinating children for measles in the 1960s, kids stopped getting measles, but the death figures for diarrhoea and pneumonia also dropped by around 50%.
The same thing happened when the vaccine was used in parts of Europe and England – it still happens when the vaccine is introduced into developing countries. According to researcher Michael Mina, in some developing countries with high rates of infectious disease, death rates have dropped by up to 80%. Eighty Percent! Wow. Hard to ignore such a number.
So, how does it work?
The theory: measles may interfere with the immune system’s memory. With other diseases – such as chicken pox – a child’s immune system learns how to fight it, and remembers all the moves. With measles, it’s like the disease deletes the immune system’s memory! This means that the child’s immunity has to rebuild itself almost from scratch, leaving them open to many infections.
While the idea of “immune amnesia” still needs testing, the study does show evidence that the disease affects the immune system for longer than previously thought – possibly up to three years.
What you need to remember
Getting rid of measles will protect children from many other infections, so this is one baby vaccination you don’t want to miss. The evidence has been published in the journal Science.
What are your thoughts on vaccinations?