An India health worker injects a school pupil with a measles and rubella vaccine while other pupils wait to receive the vaccine

A vaccination against measles and rubella is given to a child in India, where many of the world’s childhood deaths from measles occur. Credit: Biju Boro/AFP/Getty

Health care

Thousands of measles deaths averted by Indian vaccination campaign

Programme’s success shows that the country could end mortality from the disease.

A measles vaccination campaign in India saved the lives of tens of thousands of children between 2010 and 2013.

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.

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 greater declines in mortality for girls than boys. In non-campaign districts, measles mortality dropped by only 11%. The team’s analysis suggests that the campaign saved the lives of 41,000–56,000 children during that period — equivalent to 39–57% of the expected number of measles deaths nationwide.

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.