Publications & Reports

Rubella control in Papua New Guinea: Age-specific immunity informs strategies for introduction of rubella vaccine.

Riddell M, Senn N, Clements CJ, Hobday L, Cowie B, Kurubi J, Kevin A, Siba P, Reeder JC, Morgan C
Epidemiology Unit, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Melbourne, Australia; Centre for Population Health, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia; School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. Electronic


AIM: To determine the age specific immunity profile for rubella from three discrete study populations in Papua New Guinea, and to inform policy regarding the possible introduction of rubella vaccine. BACKGROUND: In 2005, the Western Pacific Region (WPR), of which Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a member state, declared the goal of regional measles elimination by 2012. Recently, WPR has incorporated an accelerated control goal for rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). PNG currently recommends two doses of measles vaccination at 6 and 9 months of age with a monovalent measles vaccine, which does not include rubella vaccine. METHODS: Convenience samples were collected from 1326 eligible participants in PNG and assessed for rubella immunity using the Dade Behring Enzygnost Anti-Rubella-Virus enzyme immunoassay. Nearly 34% were collected during an age stratified prospective survey of febrile patients in Madang Province; approximately 49% were collected from women of childbearing age in East Sepik and Milne Bay Provinces. Remaining specimens were collected from 6 to 7-month-old infants in Port Moresby prior to receiving the first dose of measles vaccine. FINDINGS: Of all samples tested, 65.2% (95% confidence interval (CI): 62.6-67.8) had evidence of immunity to rubella infection. Of women more than 15 years of age, 91.6% (95% CI: 89.4-93.5) were immune. The force of infection was highest between 5 and 19 years of age. CONCLUSIONS: Although a population-based sample was not used, our multi-centre study of the population immunity profile suggests that immunity against rubella is extremely high in most women of childbearing age, but women who become pregnant at an early age may be at high risk of rubella infection during pregnancy and potential delivery of an infant with CRS. Routine measles vaccine coverage, a proxy for measles-rubella vaccine coverage, as measured in recently published studies, is well below the WHO target of 80% coverage. Introduction of a child or infant dose of rubella vaccine requires caution and further study.


  • Journal: Vaccine
  • Published: 25/10/2012
  • Volume: 30
  • Issue: 52
  • Pagination: 7506-7512