Canadian Immunization Guide: Part 4 - Active Vaccines
Updated: September 2016
- Key Information
- Immunizing Agents Available for Use in Canada
- Immunogenicity, Efficacy and Effectiveness
- Recommendations for Use
- Vaccination of Specific Populations
- Serologic Testing
- Administration Practices
- Storage and Handling of Immunizing Agents
- Safety and Adverse Events
- Selected References
Key Information (Refer to text for details)
- Measles occurs worldwide and is one of the most highly communicable diseases.
- Canada has imported cases and occasional outbreaks of measles.
- Measles vaccine is available as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine.
- MMR vaccine or human immune globulin (Ig) may be used for measles post-exposure immunization in susceptible persons.
- The efficacy of a single dose of measles vaccine given at 12 or 15 months of age is estimated to be 85% to 95%. With a second dose, efficacy is almost 100%.
- Reactions to MMR vaccine are generally mild and transient and include pain and redness at the injection site, fever less than 39°C, and rash. Reactions to MMRV vaccine include: pain and redness at the injection site and fever less than 39°C in 10% or more of vaccine recipients; measles-like, rubella-like or varicella-like rash, swelling at the injection site and fever greater than 39°C in less than 10% of vaccine recipients.
- When the first dose is administered to children 12 to 23 months of age as MMRV vaccine, there is a higher risk of fever and febrile seizures in the 7 to 10 days after vaccination when compared to separate administration of MMR and univalent varicella vaccine at the same visit. This risk is estimated at about 1 additional febrile seizure for every 2,300 to 2,800 doses of MMRV vaccine.
- Measles-containing vaccine is recommended for routine immunization of children and for immunization of children and adolescents who missed measles immunization on the routine schedule.
- Measles-containing vaccine is recommended for susceptible adults born in or after 1970.
- Adults born before 1970 can be presumed to have acquired natural immunity to measles; however, susceptible health care workers, travellers to destinations outside of North America, and military personnel should receive MMR vaccine, regardless of year of birth.
- Routine childhood immunization: 2 doses of any measles-containing (MMR or MMRV) vaccine. The first dose of measles-containing vaccine should be administered at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 18 months of age or any time thereafter, but no later than around school entry.
- Children and adolescents who are previously unimmunized: 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine. MMRV vaccine may be used in healthy children aged 12 months to less than 13 years.
- Susceptible adults born in or after 1970: 1 dose of MMR vaccine. Those who are at the greatest risk of measles exposure (travellers to destinations outside of North America, health care workers, students in post-secondary educational settings, and military personnel) should receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
- Susceptible health care workers and military personnel born before 1970: 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
- Susceptible travellers to destinations outside of North America born before 1970: 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
- Susceptible students in post-secondary educational settings born before 1970: 1 dose of MMR vaccine should be considered.
- People who have not had measles disease or who have not been vaccinated are at risk of infection.
- Complications of measles disease occur in about 10% of measles cases.
Measles (rubeola, red measles) is caused by measles virus, a member of the Paramyxoviridae family. For additional information about the measles virus, refer to the Pathogen Safety Data Sheet.
Measles is one of the most highly communicable infectious diseases with greater than 90% secondary attack rates among susceptible persons. The virus is transmitted by the airborne route, respiratory droplets, or direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected persons. The incubation period is about 10 days (range, 7 to 18 days). The interval from exposure to appearance of rash averages 14 days. Cases are infectious from 4 days before the beginning of the prodromal period to 4 days after rash onset. People who recover from measles have permanent immunity to the disease.
People who have not had measles disease or who have not been vaccinated are at risk of infection. In Canada, adults born before 1970 are generally presumed to have acquired natural immunity to measles.
Persons at greatest risk of exposure to measles
Adolescents and adults at greatest risk of exposure to measles include:
- travellers to destinations outside of North America
- health care workers
- military personnel
- students in post-secondary educational settings
Seasonal and temporal patterns
Historically, measles disease occurred primarily in late winter and spring in temperate zones. It is now restricted to sporadic cases and outbreaks.
Spectrum of clinical illness
Symptoms of measles include prodromal fever, cough, coryza, conjunctivitis, Koplik spots (white spots on the inner lining of the mouth) and a rash that typically begins on the face, advances to the trunk and then to the arms and legs. Complications such as otitis media and bronchopneumonia occur in about 10% of reported cases, even more commonly in those who are poorly nourished and chronically ill, and in infants less than 1 year of age. Measles encephalitis occurs in approximately 1 of every 1,000 reported cases and may result in permanent brain damage. Measles infection can cause subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a rare but fatal disease. Measles during pregnancy results in a higher risk of premature labour, spontaneous abortion and low birth weight infants. Measles in an immunocompromised person may be severe.
Measles occurs worldwide and is one of the most highly communicable infectious diseases.
Measles has been eliminated in Canada since 1998; however, cases and outbreaks continue to occur as a result of importations. Comprehensive updates on the epidemiology of measles in Canada are published annually in the Canadian Communicable Disease Report (CCDR) and weekly in the PHAC Measles & Rubella Monitoring Report.
Refer to measles for health professionals for more information, including disease description, distribution and epidemiology.
Immunizing Agents Available for Use in Canada
- M-M-R®II (live attenuated combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine), Merck Canada Inc. (MMR)
- PRIORIX® (live attenuated combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine), GlaxoSmithKline Inc. (MMR)
- PRIORIX-TETRA® (live attenuated combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine), GlaxoSmithKline Inc. (MMRV)
- ProQuad™ (live attenuated combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine), Merck Canada Inc. (MMRV)
In Canada, measles vaccine is only available in combination with mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) or mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine (MMRV). In some other countries, measles vaccine alone is given.
Human immune globulin
- GamaSTAN®S/D (immune globulin [human]), Grifols Therapeutics Inc. (Ig)
For complete prescribing information, consult the product leaflet or information contained within the product monograph available through Health Canada's Drug Product Database.
Refer to Contents of Immunizing Agents Available for Use in Canada in Part 1 for lists of vaccines and passive immunizing agents available for use in Canada and their contents.
Immunogenicity, Efficacy and Effectiveness
In clinical studies a single injection of MMR vaccine induced measles antibodies in 95% of previously seronegative children.
In 12 month old children, a single dose of MMRV vaccine results in similar seroconversion rates as those achieved after concomitant administration of MMR vaccine and univalent varicella vaccine. A study of children receiving 2 doses of MMRV vaccine during the second year of life noted seropositivity for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella of 99%, 97.4%, 100% and 99.4% respectively by the third year post-vaccination.
Efficacy and effectiveness
The efficacy of a single dose of measles-containing vaccine given at 12 or 15 months of age is estimated to be 85% to 95%. With a second dose, efficacy in children approaches 100%. However, measles outbreaks have occurred in populations with high immunization coverage rates. Due to the high infectivity of measles at least 95% of the population needs to be immunized to develop herd immunity.
There are no data regarding the long-term effectiveness of MMRV vaccine.
Recommendations for Use
Healthy children (12 months to less than 18 years of age)
- Healthy children (12 months to less than 13 years of age)
For routine immunization of children aged 12 months to less than 13 years, 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine, using either MMR or MMRV vaccine, should be administered. The first measles-containing vaccine dose should be administered at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 18 months of age or any time thereafter, but no later than around school entry.
Catch-up and accelerated schedules
- Children (12 months to less than 13 years of age)
Two doses of measles-containing vaccine, using either MMR or MMRV vaccine, should be administered to children less than 13 years of age who were not immunized on the routine schedule. For preschool aged children, 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine should be administered before school entry (4 to 6 years of age). The minimum interval between doses of measles-containing vaccine is 4 weeks.
- Adolescents (13 to less than 18 years of age)
Measles-susceptible adolescents (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine, given at least 4 weeks apart.
Healthy adults (18 years of age and older)
Measles-susceptible adults (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should receive 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccine as appropriate for age and risk factors. If 2 doses are needed, MMR vaccine should be administered with a minimum interval of 4 weeks between doses.
Adults born before 1970 are generally presumed to have acquired natural immunity to measles; however, some of these individuals may be susceptible.
Adults without contraindications, born in or after 1970 who do not meet the definition of measles immunity (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should be immunized with 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
Health care workers
Refer to Workers.
Students in post-secondary educational settings
Students born in or after 1970, who do not meet the definition of measles immunity (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine. In students born before 1970, administration of 1 dose of MMR vaccine should be considered.
Military personnel, regardless of their year of birth, who do not meet the definition of measles immunity (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
Refer to Travellers.
Refer to Immunization of Adults in Part 3 for additional information about routinely recommended immunization for adults as well as vaccines recommended for adults in specific risk situations.
Susceptibility and immunity
Table 1 provides a summary of criteria for measles immunity.
|Routine immunization||Health care workers||Travellers to destinations outside North America||Students in post-secondary educational settings||Military personnel|
Booster doses and re-immunization
Re-immunization with measles-containing vaccine after age and risk appropriate vaccination is not necessary.
Post-exposure immunization and outbreak control
Measles continues to be imported into Canada and occasional outbreaks of measles occur in susceptible populations. MMR vaccine or Ig may be used for measles post-exposure immunization in susceptible persons.
Susceptible, immunocompetent individuals 12 months of age and older who are exposed to measles may be protected from measles disease if they are given measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine within 72 hours of their exposure. MMR vaccine may be recommended for children between 6 months to less than 12 months of age for post-exposure management if it is given within 72 hours of exposure; however, 2 additional doses of measles-containing vaccine must be administered after the child is 12 months old (and at least 4 weeks after the previous dose) to ensure long lasting immunity to measles.
Human immune globulin
Prophylactic use of human immune globulin (Ig) has been shown to be effective in modifying or preventing disease if administered within 6 days after exposure to measles; however, it should be given as soon as possible after exposure when indicated. Ig should be considered for the following groups of individuals if they are contacts of measles:
- susceptible pregnant women
- susceptible immunocompromised people
- children less than 6 months of age
Measles-containing vaccine is contraindicated in susceptible pregnant women and immunocompromised people; effectiveness and safety of measles-containing vaccine has not been established in children less than 6 months of age. Ig should also be considered for susceptible immunocompetent contacts of measles who are 6 months of age and older and who present more than 72 hours after exposure (when MMR vaccine no longer provides post-exposure protection) but within 6 days after exposure (when Ig may still provide post-exposure protection).
In HIV-infected individuals, measles antibody titre is known to decline more rapidly over time as compared to those who are not HIV-infected. A dose of Ig should be considered in HIV-infected individuals with severe immunosuppression after a known exposure to confirmed measles, even with documented previous MMR immunization. Regardless of vaccination status pre-transplant, Ig should be considered for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) recipients, unless vaccinated post-HSCT and known to have an adequate measles antibody titre.
In assessing the extent of measles exposure and deciding between MMR vaccine and Ig for post-exposure management, it is important to consider that Ig only provides short-term protection and requires postponing the administration of MMR vaccine for 5 to 6 months. If longer term protection against measles is required because of ongoing measles transmission in the community, MMR vaccine may be the preferred choice.
Despite the use of MMR vaccine or Ig for post-exposure management, measles infection may occur. Exposed individuals should be counseled regarding: signs and symptoms of measles; avoiding contact with others should they become ill with symptoms compatible with measles; and the need to seek medical care, including advising health care workers of the possibility of measles before going to a health care setting so that appropriate precautions can be taken. For detailed information regarding infection prevention and control, refer to the Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Measles Outbreaks in Canada.
Unless it is contraindicated, individuals who receive Ig should receive measles-containing vaccine after a specified interval, once the measles antibodies administered passively have degraded. For recommendations on the interval between administration of an Ig preparation or other blood product and vaccination with measles-containing vaccine, refer to Blood Products, Human Immune Globulin and Timing of Immunization in Part 1.
Refer to Passive Immunizing Agents in Part 5 for additional information.
Immunization with MMR vaccine is an integral element of a comprehensive measles outbreak prevention and management strategy. In a measles outbreak, susceptible individuals 6 months of age and older may receive MMR vaccine; however, if given between 6 months and less than 12 months of age, 2 additional doses of measles-containing vaccine must be administered after the child is 12 months old (and at least 4 weeks after the previous dose) to ensure long lasting immunity to measles. For detailed information on outbreak control, refer to the Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Measles Outbreaks in Canada.
Vaccination of Specific Populations
Persons with inadequate immunization records
Children and adults who are susceptible to measles, including those lacking adequate documentation of immunization, should be started on an immunization schedule appropriate for their age and risk factors. Measles-containing vaccine may be given regardless of possible previous receipt of the vaccine because additional adverse events associated with repeated immunization have not been demonstrated. Refer to Immunization of Persons with Inadequate Immunization Records in Part 3 for additional information.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Immunity to measles should be reviewed in women of reproductive age and vaccination should be recommended to susceptible non-pregnant women. Women should delay pregnancy by at least 4 weeks following vaccination with MMR vaccine.
MMR and MMRV vaccines are generally contraindicated in pregnancy because there is a theoretical risk to the fetus. However, there is no evidence to demonstrate a teratogenic risk from the vaccines and termination of pregnancy should not be recommended following inadvertent immunization with either of these vaccines on the basis of fetal risks following maternal immunization. There was no evidence of Congenital Rubella Syndrome in any of the offspring of 226 women inadvertently vaccinated during pregnancy. In some situations, potential benefits of vaccination with MMR vaccine may outweigh risks such as during measles or rubella outbreaks, in which case vaccination may be considered based on recommendations from public health officials. Pregnant women who are susceptible to measles should have vaccination offered post-partum.
Susceptible women who are breastfeeding should be vaccinated with MMR vaccine.
Refer to Post-exposure immunization and outbreak control for additional information about the use of Ig in the management of susceptible pregnant women exposed to measles. Refer to Blood Products, Human Immune Globulin and Timing of Immunization in Part 1 for information about measles vaccination of post-partum women who have received Rh immune globulin (RhIg). Refer to Immunization in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding in Part 3 for additional information.
Patients in health care institutions
Susceptible residents of long-term care facilities should receive measles, mumps and rubella-containing vaccine as appropriate for their age and risk factors. Refer to Immunization of Patients in Health Care Institutions in Part 3 for additional information.
Persons with chronic diseases
Age-appropriate measles-containing vaccine should routinely be provided to individuals with chronic diseases who are not immunocompromised. Refer to Immunization of Persons with Chronic Diseases in Part 3 for additional general information about vaccination of people with chronic diseases.
Asplenia or hyposplenia
Susceptible hyposplenic or asplenic (congenital absence, surgical removal or functional [for example, sickle cell disease]) individuals should be immune to measles, mumps and rubella or should receive MMR vaccine as appropriate.
Chronic renal disease and patients on dialysis
Individuals with chronic renal disease or undergoing dialysis should be immune to measles, mumps and rubella or should receive MMR vaccine as appropriate.
People with conditions such as autism spectrum disorders or demyelinating disorders, including multiple sclerosis, should receive all routinely recommended immunizations, including measles-containing vaccine.
Chronic inflammatory diseases
Individuals with autoimmune disease not treated with immunosuppressive drugs are not considered significantly immunocompromised and should receive measles, mumps and rubella immunization following consultation with their physician. Some rheumatic disease modifying agents such as hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, or auranofin are not considered immunosuppressive for the purposes of live vaccine administration.
In general, immunocompromised people should not receive live vaccines because of the risk of disease caused by the vaccine strains. When considering immunization of an immunocompromised person with a live vaccine, approval from the individual's attending physician should be obtained before vaccination. For complex cases, referral to a physician with expertise in immunization or immunodeficiency is advised. MMRV vaccine has not been studied in persons with impaired immune function, including primary or secondary immunodeficiency disorders, and is not recommended for this group.
Children with a suspected history for immunodeficiency disorders (for example, known or suspected family history of congenital immunodeficiency disorder or HIV infection, or history of failure to thrive and recurrent infections) should not be immunized until they have been fully investigated and T cell dysfunction has been ruled out. Immunodeficiency states may be undiagnosed in young children presenting for routine immunizations, which include live vaccines. This is particularly important to consider in infants receiving live vaccines before 12 months of age. A history of negative prenatal screening of the infant's mother for HIV should be obtained before administering a live vaccine. If a mother has not received routine prenatal care in Canada, the possibility of undiagnosed HIV infection should be considered.
Congenital (primary) immunodeficiency
All live vaccines, including measles-containing vaccine, are contraindicated in people with defects in T cell function. Live vaccines are generally not recommended for people with other congenital immunodeficiency states, with the following exceptions:
- B cell deficiency: people with isolated humoral immunoglobulin deficiency disorders and known intact T cell systems who are not receiving regular immune globulin replacement therapy may receive MMR vaccine.
- Phagocytic and neutrophil disorders: people with phagocytic or neutrophil disorders may be vaccinated with MMR vaccine as appropriate.
- Complement deficiency: people with complement deficiency disorders may be vaccinated with MMR vaccine as appropriate.
Because immunity can decrease over time, assessment of antibody titres and re-immunization, if needed, should be considered.
Acquired (secondary) immunodeficiency
Malignant hematologic disorders
Measles-containing vaccine is contraindicated in individuals with severe immunodeficiency due to conditions such as blood dyscrasias, lymphomas of any type, or other malignant neoplasms affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic systems.
Measles-containing vaccine is contraindicated in people undergoing immunosuppressive treatment for acute leukemia. Children with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) may be vaccinated with MMR vaccine if the disease has been in remission for at least 12 months, the child's total lymphocyte count is at least 1.2 × 109/L, the child is not receiving radiation therapy, and maintenance chemotherapy can be withheld for at least 1 week before to 1 week after immunization.
Malignant solid tumours
Measles-containing vaccine is contraindicated in people undergoing immunosuppressive treatment for any malignant solid tumours.
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)
People awaiting HSCT should not receive measles-containing vaccine. Vaccination of donors immediately before stem cell harvest is not recommended because there is no evidence that immunity can be transferred from the donor to the recipient.
Antibody titres to vaccine-preventable diseases decline after HSCT if the recipient is not re-vaccinated. Vaccination with MMR vaccine may be considered at 24 months or more after transplantation, provided that there is no evidence of chronic graft-versus-host disease, immunosuppression has been discontinued for at least 3 months, and the person is considered immunocompetent by a transplant specialist. Serologic status should be checked after the first dose of MMR vaccine and a second dose should be given 3 months or more after the first dose if there is no seroconversion.
Solid organ transplantation
If possible, individuals being considered for solid organ transplantation should receive immunizations recommended for their age before the transplantation is performed. MMR vaccine may be given to infants as early as 6 months of age if transplantation is anticipated before 12 to 15 months of age. MMR vaccine should be given at least 4 weeks before solid organ transplantation and, in general, is not recommended after transplantation.
Vaccination status for measles, mumps and rubella should be reviewed for immunocompetent persons who might be anticipating initiation of immunosuppressive treatments, individuals on immunosuppressive therapy, and in those who have diseases that might lead to immunodeficiency.
Refer to Immunization of Immunocompromised Persons in Part 3 for additional information about measles immunization and immunosuppressive therapy.
An infectious disease specialist or immunologist should be consulted for advice on measles, mumps or rubella immunization in HIV-infected people. There are no contraindications to the use of MMR vaccine early in the course of illness; however, MMR vaccine is contraindicated in persons with advanced HIV/AIDS. The safety and immunogenicity of MMRV vaccine in HIV-infected individuals has not been evaluated, and MMRV vaccine is not routinely recommended.
HIV-infected children 12 months of age and older, and with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clinical category N, A, or B, and CD4 percentage ≥15% may receive 2 doses of MMR vaccine 3 to 6 months apart. MMR vaccine may be administered concomitantly with univalent varicella vaccine at different injection sites using separate needles and syringes.
Adolescents and adults
Immunization with 2 doses of MMR administered 3 months apart may be considered for susceptible HIV-infected adolescents and adults with CD4 cell count ≥200 × 106/L and CD4 percentage ≥15%.
Susceptible household contacts of immunocompromised people should be considered a priority to receive a measles-containing vaccine as appropriate for age and risk factors.
Protection against measles is especially important for people planning travel. Travellers to destinations outside of North America, born in or after 1970, who do not meet the definition of measles immunity (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should receive 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine.
Measles vaccine should be given at an earlier age than usual for children travelling to countries outside of North America. MMR vaccine may be given as early as 6 months of age; however, 2 additional doses of measles-containing vaccine must be administered after the child is 12 months old to ensure long lasting immunity to measles.
Travellers to destinations outside of North America, born before 1970, who do not meet the definition of measles immunity (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should receive 1 dose of MMR vaccine.
Measles is endemic in many countries. Refer to measles incidence rates in WHO member countries for additional information.
Refer to Immunization of Travellers in Part 3 for additional information.
Persons new to Canada
Health care providers who see persons newly arrived in Canada should review the immunization status and update immunization for these individuals as necessary. In many countries outside of Canada, mumps and rubella vaccines are in limited use and measles vaccine alone is given. A Canadian study showed that more than one-third of new immigrants and refugees, particularly women, were susceptible to measles, mumps, or rubella. Refer to Immunization of Persons New to Canada in Part 3 for additional information.
It is recommended that all health care workers be immune to measles. Health care workers, regardless of their year of birth, who do not meet the definition of measles immunity (refer to Table 1 for criteria for immunity) should be vaccinated accordingly so that they have received 2 doses of MMR vaccine.
Refer to Immunization of Workers in Part 3 for additional information.
Serological testing may be indicated to confirm the diagnosis of measles or to determine immune status. Serologic testing is not recommended before or after receiving measles-containing vaccine. If serology is inadvertently done subsequent to appropriate measles immunization and does not demonstrate immunity, measles re-immunization is not necessary.
Each dose of measles-containing vaccine is 0.5 mL.
Route of administration
MMR vaccine should be administered subcutaneously (SC). MMRV vaccine should be administered according to the product monograph.
Refer to Vaccine Administration Practices in Part 1 for additional information about pre-vaccination and post-vaccination counselling, vaccine preparation and administration technique, and infection prevention and control.
Refer to Passive Immunizing Agents in Part 5 for information about administration of Ig.
Interchangeability of vaccines
On the basis of expert opinion, the MMR vaccines authorized in Canada may be used interchangeably. Refer to Varicella Vaccine in Part 4 for information about interchangeability of MMRV vaccines. Refer to Principles of Vaccine Interchangeability in Part 1 for additional general information.
Concurrent administration with other vaccines
MMR vaccine may be administered concomitantly with, or at any time before or after, inactivated vaccines, live oral vaccines, or live intranasal influenza vaccine (LAIV). Refer to Influenza Vaccine in Part 4 for additional information about concurrent administration of MMR vaccine with LAIV.
MMR vaccine may be administered concomitantly with other routinely provided live parenteral vaccines. If not given concomitantly, a minimum interval of 4 weeks is recommended between administration of MMR and other live parenteral vaccines. This recommendation is to address the risk of interference from the vaccine given first on the vaccine given later.
Different injection sites and separate needles and syringes must be used for concomitant parenteral injections. Refer to Timing of Vaccine Administration in Part 1 for additional information about concurrent administration of measles-containing vaccine with other vaccines.
Storage and Handling of Immunizing Agents
Refer to Storage and Handling of Immunizing Agents in Part 1 for storage and handling recommendations for measles-containing vaccines.
Refer to Passive Immunizing Agents in Part 5 for storage and handling recommendations for Ig.
Safety and Adverse Events
Common and local adverse events
Adverse events following immunization with MMR vaccine occur less frequently and are less severe than those associated with natural disease. Adverse reactions are less frequent after the second dose of vaccine and tend to occur only in individuals not protected by the first dose. Six to 23 days after immunization with MMR vaccine, approximately 5% of immunized children experience malaise and fever (with or without rash) lasting up to 3 days. Parotitis, rash, lymphadenopathy, and joint symptoms also occur occasionally after immunization with MMR vaccine.
Pain and redness at the injection site or fever less than 39°C occur in 10% or more of vaccine recipients. Rash, including measles-like, rubella-like and varicella-like rash, as well as swelling at the injection site and fever greater than 39°C, occur in 1% to less than 10% of vaccine recipients. As varicella-like rashes that occur within the first 2 weeks after immunization may be caused by wild-type virus (varicella virus circulating in the community), health care providers should obtain specimens from the vaccine recipient to determine whether the rash is due to natural varicella infection or to the vaccine-derived strain.
Acute transient arthritis or arthralgia may occur 1 to 3 weeks after immunization with rubella-containing vaccine, such as MMRV. It lasts for about 1 to 3 weeks, and rarely recurs. It is more common in post-pubertal females, among whom arthralgia develops in 25% and arthritis in 10% after immunization with rubella-containing vaccine. There is no evidence of increased risk of new onset chronic arthropathies.
Human immune globulin
Injection site pain and tenderness, urticaria, and angioedema may occur.
Less common and serious or severe adverse events
Serious adverse events are rare following immunization and, in most cases, data are insufficient to determine a causal association. Anaphylaxis following vaccination with MMR or MMRV vaccine may occur but is very rare.
Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura
Rarely, Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) occurs within 6 weeks after immunization with MMR or MMRV vaccine. In most children, post-immunization thrombocytopenia resolves within 3 months without serious complications. In individuals who experienced ITP with the first dose of MMR or MMRV vaccine, serologic status may be evaluated to determine whether an additional dose of vaccine is needed for protection. The potential risk to benefit ratio should be carefully evaluated before considering vaccination in such cases.
Encephalitis has been reported in association with administration of measles vaccine in approximately 1 per million doses distributed in North America which is much lower than the incidence observed with natural measles disease (1 per 1,000 cases).
When the first dose of measles-containing vaccine is administered to children 12 to 23 months as MMRV vaccine, there is a higher risk of fever and febrile seizures in the 7 to 10 days after vaccination when compared to separate administration of MMR and varicella vaccine at the same visit. This risk is estimated at about 1 additional febrile seizure for every 2,300 to 2,800 doses of MMRV vaccine.
Human immune globulin
Anaphylactic reactions, although rare, have been reported following the injection of human Ig.
Other reported adverse events and conditions
In the mid to late 1990s, researchers from the United Kingdom reported an association between MMR vaccine and inflammatory bowel disease, and MMR vaccine and autism. Rigorous scientific studies and reviews of the evidence have been done worldwide, and there is now considerable evidence to refute those claims. In 2010, the original study suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was found to be fraudulent and was retracted.
Guidance on reporting Adverse Events Following Immunization
Vaccine providers are asked to report the following adverse events following immunization (AEFI) in particular, through local public health officials:
- Febrile seizures within 30 days after vaccination with MMR or MMRV vaccine.
- Varicella that is moderate (50 to 500 lesions) or severe (more than 500 vesicular lesions or associated complications or hospital admission) and occurs within 7 to 21 days after vaccination with MMRV vaccine.
- Any serious or unexpected adverse event temporally related to vaccination. An unexpected AEFI is an event that is not listed in available product information but may be due to the immunization, or a change in the frequency of a known AEFI.
Refer to Reporting Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) in Canada and Vaccine Safety in Part 2 for additional information about AEFI reporting.
Contraindications and precautions
MMR and MMRV vaccines and Ig are contraindicated in persons with a history of anaphylaxis after previous administration of the product and in persons with proven immediate or anaphylactic hypersensitivity to any component of the product, with the exception of egg allergy for MMR and MMRV vaccines. Refer to Contents of Immunizing Agents Available for Use in Canada in Part 1 for lists of vaccines and passive immunizing agents available in Canada and their contents.
In situations of suspected hypersensitivity or non-anaphylactic allergy to vaccine components, investigation is indicated which may involve immunization in a controlled setting. Consultation with an allergist is advised.
Although the measles and mumps components of MMR and MMRV vaccines are produced in chick embryo cell culture and may contain traces of residual egg and chicken protein, the trace amount of egg or chicken protein in the vaccine appears to be insufficient to cause an allergic reaction in egg-allergic individuals. Skin testing is not recommended prior to vaccination as it does not predict reaction to the vaccine. MMR or MMRV vaccine can be administered in the routine manner to people who have a history of anaphylactic hypersensitivity to hens' eggs. Prior egg ingestion is not a prerequisite for immunization with egg protein-containing vaccine. For all vaccines, immunization should always be performed by personnel with the capability and facilities to manage adverse events post-vaccination. Refer to Anaphylactic Hypersensitivity to Egg and Egg-Related Antigens in Part 2 for additional information.
Children with a known or suspected family history of congenital or hereditary immunodeficiency that is a contraindication to vaccination with live vaccine should not receive live vaccines unless their immune competence has been established.
MMRV vaccine is contraindicated in persons with impaired immune function, including primary or secondary immunodeficiency disorders. Refer to Immunocompromised persons.
MMR and MMRV vaccines are generally contraindicated during pregnancy because of the theoretical risk to the fetus. Refer to Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Measles-containing vaccines are contraindicated in individuals with active, untreated tuberculosis (TB) as a precautionary measure. Although TB may be exacerbated by natural measles infection, there is no evidence that measles-containing vaccines have such an effect. Nonetheless, anti-tuberculous therapy for active TB disease is advisable before administering measles-containing vaccines and it may be prudent to avoid live viral vaccines in those with active TB disease until treatment is underway. Consultation with an expert in infectious diseases is recommended.
A history of febrile seizures or a family history of seizures is not a contraindication for the use of MMRV vaccine.
Administration of MMR or MMRV vaccine should be postponed in persons with severe acute illness. Persons with a minor acute illness, with or without fever, may be vaccinated.
It is recommended to avoid the use of salicylates (medications derived from salicylic acid, such as acetylsalicylic acid [ASA]) for 6 weeks after immunization with MMRV vaccine because of an association between wild-type varicella, salicylate therapy and Reye's syndrome.
Systemic antiviral therapy
Systemic antiviral therapy (such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, famciclovir) should be avoided in the peri-immunization period, as it may affect the reproduction of the vaccine virus and consequently may reduce the efficacy of varicella-containing vaccine, such as MMRV. On the basis of expert opinion, it is recommended that people taking long-term antiviral therapy should discontinue these drugs, if possible, from at least 24 hours before administration of MMRV vaccine and should not restart antiviral therapy until 14 days after vaccine administration.
Tuberculin skin testing or Interferon Gamma Release Assay (IGRA)
The measles component in measles-containing vaccines can temporarily suppress tuberculin reactivity, resulting in false-negative results. If tuberculin skin testing or an IGRA test is required, it should be done on the same day as immunization or delayed for at least 4 weeks after measles vaccination. Vaccination with measles-containing vaccine may take place at any time after tuberculin skin testing has been performed and read.
Human immune globulin or other blood products
Passive immunization with human Ig or receipt of most other blood products can interfere with the immune response to MMR and MMRV vaccines. Refer to Blood Products, Human Immune Globulin and Timing of Immunization in Part 1 for recommended intervals between the administration of Ig preparations or other blood products and MMR and MMRV vaccines.
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