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Measles, mumps, and rubella are three common childhood diseases, caused by measles virus, mumps virus (paramyxoviruses), and rubella virus (togavirus), respectively, that may be associated with serious complications and/or death. For example, pneumonia and encephalitis are caused by measles. Mumps is associated with aseptic meningitis, deafness and orchitis; and rubella during pregnancy may cause congenital rubella syndrome in the infants of infected mothers.

The impact of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination on the natural history of each disease in the United States can be quantified by comparing the maximum number of measles, mumps, and rubella cases reported in a given year prior to vaccine use to the number of cases of each disease reported in 1995. For measles, 894,134 cases reported in 1941 compared to 288 cases reported in 1995 resulted in a 99.97% decrease in reported cases; for mumps, 152,209 cases reported in 1968 compared to 840 cases reported in 1995 resulted in a 99.45% decrease in reported cases; and for rubella, 57,686 cases reported in 1969 compared to 200 cases reported in 1995 resulted in a 99.65% decrease.3

Clinical studies of 284 triple seronegative children, 11 months to 7 years of age, demonstrated that M-M-R II (measles, mumps, and rubella virus vaccine live) is highly immunogenic and generally well tolerated. In these studies, a single injection of the vaccine induced measles hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibodies in 95%, mumps neutralizing antibodies in 96%, and rubella HI antibodies in 99% of susceptible persons. However, a small percentage (1-5%) of vaccinees may fail to seroconvert after the primary dose (see also INDICATIONS, Recommended Vaccination Schedule).

A study4 of 6-month-old and 15-month-old infants born to vaccine-immunized mothers demonstrated that, following vaccination with ATTENUVAX, 74% of the 6-month-old infants developed detectable neutralizing antibody (NT) titers while 100% of the 15-month-old infants developed NT. This rate of seroconversion is higher than that previously reported for 6-month-old infants born to naturally immune mothers tested by HI assay. When the 6-month-old infants of immunized mothers were revaccinated at 15 months, they developed antibody titers equivalent to the 15-month-old vaccinees. The lower seroconversion rate in 6-month-olds has two possible explanations: 1) Due to the limit of the detection level of the assays (NT and enzyme immunoassay [EIA]), the presence of trace amounts of undetectable maternal antibody might interfere with the seroconversion of infants; or 2) The immune system of 6-month-olds is not always capable of mounting a response to measles vaccine as measured by the two antibody assays.

There is some evidence to suggest that infants who are born to mothers who had wild-type measles and who are vaccinated at less than one year of age may not develop sustained antibody levels when later revaccinated. The advantage of early protection must be weighed against the chance for failure to respond adequately on reimmunization.5,6

Efficacy of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines was established in a series of double-blind controlled field trials which demonstrated a high degree of protective efficacy afforded by the individual vaccine components.7-12 These studies also established that seroconversion in response to vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella paralleled protection from these diseases.13-15

Following vaccination, antibodies associated with protection can be measured by neutralization assays, HI, or ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) tests. Neutralizing and ELISA antibodies to measles, mumps, and rubella viruses are still detectable in most individuals 11 to 13 years after primary vaccination.16-18 See INDICATIONS, Non-Pregnant Adolescents and Adult Females, for Rubella Susceptibility Testing.

The RA 27/3 rubella strain in M-M-R II (measles, mumps, and rubella virus vaccine live) elicits higher immediate post-vaccination HI, complement-fixing and neutralizing antibody levels than other strains of rubella vaccine19-25 and has been shown to induce a broader profile of circulating antibodies including anti-theta and anti-iota precipitating antibodies.26,27 The RA 27/3 rubella strain immunologically simulates natural infection more closely than other rubella vaccine viruses.27-29 The increased levels and broader profile of antibodies produced by RA 27/3 strain rubella virus vaccine appear to correlate with greater resistance to subclinical reinfection with the wild virus,27,29-31 and provide greater confidence for lasting immunity.


3. Monthly Immunization Table, MMWR 45(1): 24-25, January 12, 1996.

4. Johnson, C.E.; et al: Measles Vaccine Immunogenicity in 6- Versus 15-Month-Old Infants Born to Mothers in the Measles Vaccine Era, Pediatrics, 93(6): 939-943, 1994.

5. Linneman, C.C.; et al: Measles Immunity After Vaccination: Results in Children Vaccinated Before 10 Months of Age, Pediatrics, 69(3): 332-335, March 1982.

6. Stetler, H.C.; et al: Impact of Revaccinating Children Who Initially Received Measles Vaccine Before 10 Months of Age, Pediatrics 77(4): 471-476, April 1986.

7. Hilleman, M.R.; Buynak, E.B.; Weibel, R.E.; et al: Development and Evaluation of the Moraten Measles Virus Vaccine, JAMA 206(3): 587-590, 1968.

8. Weibel, R.E.; Stokes, J.; Buynak, E.B.; et al: Live, Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine 3. Clinical and Serologic Aspects in a Field Evaluation, N. Engl. J. Med. 276: 245-251, 1967.

9. Hilleman, M.R.; Weibel, R.E.; Buynak, E.B.; et al: Live, Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine 4. Protective Efficacy as Measured in a Field Evaluation, N. Engl. J. Med. 276: 252-258, 1967.

10. Cutts, F.T.; Henderson, R.H.; Clements, C.J.; et al: Principles of measles control, Bull WHO 69(1): 1-7, 1991.

11. Weibel, R.E.; Buynak, E.B.; Stokes, J.; et al: Evaluation Of Live Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine, Strain Jeryl Lynn, First International Conference on Vaccines Against Viral and Rickettsial Diseases of Man, World Health Organization, No. 147, May 1967.

12. Leibhaber, H.; Ingalls, T.H.; LeBouvier, G.L.; et al: Vaccination With RA 27/3 Rubella Vaccine, Am. J. Dis. Child. 123: 133-136, February 1972.

13. Rosen, L.: Hemagglutination and Hemagglutination-Inhibition with Measles Virus, Virology 13: 139-141, January 1961.

14. Brown, G.C.; et al: Fluorescent-Antibody Marker for Vaccine-Induced Rubella Antibodies, Infection and Immunity 2(4): 360-363, 1970.

15. Buynak, E.B.; et al: Live Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine 1. Vaccine Development, Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 123: 768-775, 1966.

16. Weibel, R.E.; Carlson, A.J.; Villarejos, V.M.; Buynak, E.B.; McLean, A.A.; Hilleman, M.R.: Clinical and Laboratory Studies of Combined Live Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccines Using the RA 27/3 Rubella Virus, Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 165: 323-326, 1980.

17. Unpublished data from the files of Merck Research Laboratories.

18. Watson, J.C.; Pearson, J.S.; Erdman, D.D.; et al: An Evaluation of Measles Revaccination Among School-Entry Age Children, 31st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Abstract #268, 143, 1991.

19. Fogel, A.; Moshkowitz, A.; Rannon, L.; Gerichter, Ch.B.: Comparative trials of RA 27/3 and Cendehill rubella vaccines in adult and adolescent females, Am. J. Epidemiol. 93: 392-393, 1971.

20. Andzhaparidze, O.G.; Desyatskova, R.G.; Chervonski, G.I.; Pryanichnikova, L.V.: Immunogenicity and reactogenicity of live attenuated rubella virus vaccines, Am. J. Epidemiol. 91: 527-530, 1970.

21. Freestone, D.S.; Reynolds, G.M.; McKinnon, J.A.; Prydie, J.: Vaccination of schoolgirls against rubella. Assessment of serological status and a comparative trial of Wistar RA 27/3 and Cendehill strain live attenuated rubella vaccines in 13-year-old schoolgirls in Dudley, Br. J. Prev. Soc. Med. 29: 258-261, 1975.

22. Grillner, L.; Hedstrom, C.E.; Bergstrom, H.; Forssman, L.; Rigner, A.; Lycke, E.: Vaccination against rubella of newly delivered women, Scand. J. Infect. Dis. 5: 237-241, 1973.

23. Grillner, L.: Neutralizing antibodies after rubella vaccination of newly delivered women: a comparison between three vaccines, Scand. J. Infect. Dis. 7: 169-172, 1975.

24. Wallace, R.B.; Isacson, P.: Comparative trial of HPV-77, DE-5 and RA 27/3 live-attenuated rubella vaccines, Am. J. Dis. Child. 124: 536-538, 1972.

25. Lalla, M.; Vesikari, T.; Virolainen, M.: Lymphoblast proliferation and humoral antibody response after rubella vaccination, Clin. Exp. Immunol. 15: 193-202, 1973.

26. LeBouvier, G.L.; Plotkin, S.A.: Precipitin responses to rubella vaccine RA 27/3, J. Infect. Dis. 123: 220-223, 1971.

27. Horstmann, D.M.: Rubella: The challenge of its control, J. Infect. Dis. 123: 640-654, 1971.

28. Ogra, P.L.; Kerr-Grant, D.; Umana, G.; Dzierba, J.; Weintraub, D.: Antibody response in serum and nasopharynx after naturally acquired and vaccine-induced infection with rubella virus, N. Engl. J. Med. 285: 1333-1339, 1971.

29. Plotkin, S.A.; Farquhar, J.D.; Ogra, P.L.: Immunologic properties of RA 27/3 rubella virus vaccine, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 225: 585-590, 1973.

30. Liebhaber, H.; Ingalls, T.H.; LeBouvier, G.L.; Horstmann, D.M.: Vaccination with RA 27/3 rubella vaccine. Persistence of immunity and resistance to challenge after two years, Am. J. Dis. Child. 123: 133-136, 1972.

31. Farquhar, J.D.: Follow-up on rubella vaccinations and experience with subclinical reinfection, J. Pediatr. 81: 460-465, 1972.

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