Epidemiology and Infection

Short Report


Is the MMR vaccination programme failing to protect women against rubella infection?

S. SKIDMOREa1 c1, E. BOXALLa2 and S. LORDa2a3

a1 Department of Microbiology, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, UK

a2 Regional Antenatal & Child Health Screening Team NHSWM, UK

a3 Women's Services, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, UK


In recent years the number of pregnant women susceptible to rubella has increased markedly. In the West Midlands the proportion has risen from 1·4% in 2004 to 6·9% in 2011. Locally, the proportion of non-immune women ranges from 1·6% in those born prior to 1976 to 17·8% in those born since 1986. The latter group comprises those given MMR in their second year with no further booster doses. The number of non-immune women will continue to rise as a consequence of low MMR uptake in the late 1990s. Repeat testing of samples with values <10 IU/ml and the need to vaccinate women postnatally have increased the workload of laboratory and maternity units. Screening for rubella in pregnancy has no advantages for the current pregnancy and it may be time to review the universal MMR vaccination programme which in turn would remove the need for continuing this practice.

(Received May 28 2013)

(Revised July 26 2013)

(Accepted July 29 2013)

(Online publication August 19 2013)

Key words

  • Immunization (vaccination);
  • infectious disease control;
  • rubella;
  • vaccine policy development;
  • vaccine-preventable diseases


c1 Author for correspondence: Dr S. Skidmore, Department of Microbiology, Princess Royal Hospital, Telford TF1 6TF, UK. (Email: sue.skidmore@sath.nhs.uk)