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Drug Saf. 1998 Dec;19(6):435-54.

Measles vaccines: a review of adverse events.

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Division of Immunisation, Bureau of Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. duclosp@WHO.CH


A great deal of controversy has recently been generated over the publication of several articles implicating measles vaccine in the induction of Crohn's disease and autism. The publication of this work has already had a negative impact on measles vaccine acceptance in the UK. These allegations are particularly troubling because they arise in the context of increased use of measles vaccine as global control of measles nears and the international community considers strategies for a drive towards eradication. In 1994, the US Institute of Medicine reviewed the world literature and published a comprehensive review of adverse events associated with measles-containing vaccines. Reviewing the literature published between 1994 and the present day, reveals that there is considerable new data suggesting that modified gelatin rather than egg proteins is responsible for most episodes of anaphylaxis following measles vaccination. New work weakens the possible links between measles vaccine and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome, but strengthens the rare association of measles-containing vaccines with post infectious encephalomyelitis. The alleged associations between measles vaccination and Crohn's disease and autism are based upon weak science and have largely been refuted by a large volume of stronger work. A review of the data generated in the last 4 years amply demonstrates the continued efforts of the scientific community to monitor and understand true measles vaccine-associated adverse events. The rapidity and clarity of this same community's debunking of the spurious associations with Crohn's disease and autism suggests that those charged with vaccination programmes have learned from past mistakes. During 30 years of worldwide use, measles vaccination has proven to be one of the safest and most successful health interventions in the history of mankind. It is not a 'perfect' vaccine, but the benefits of measles vaccination far outweigh the risks even in countries with low incidence of measles and high rates of measles vaccine coverage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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