Eliminating congenital rubella: a seroepidemiological study on women of childbearing age and MMR vaccine coverage in newborns


Introduction. Rubella can have particularly serious effects on the product of conception if contracted during pregnancy. Thus, the main aim of rubella vaccination programmes is to prevent infection during pregnancy. Materials and methods. A seroepidemiological study was conducted from July 2006 to December 2007 on 1,000 women of childbearing age, 15 to 45 years old, using specific rubivirus antibody assays, IgG and IgM. A questionnaire administered at the same time allowed us to survey how much women knew about this disease. In addition, MMR vaccine coverage rates were analysed for cohorts born in the local health districts of Messina for the period 1993-2006. Results. An analysis of the replies given to the questionnaire showed an estimated 42.8% of the women to have immunity from rubella, while the serological study showed an immunity coverage rate of 80.6%. Vaccination coverage in the local health districts regarding the first dose of MMR was 81% (cohorts 1993-2005), while the rate was only 24% for the second dose (cohorts 1993-2002). Conclusions. Both immunity coverage in women of childbearing age and that for newborns (for the cohort considered) fall below the 95% target set by the National Elimination Plan for Measles and Congenital Rubella (PNEM). It is therefore necessary to provide women with adequate information about the risks of rubella during pregnancy and about the benefits of vaccination, as well as to recoup subjects at risk or those whose immune status is unknown. Public health authorities also need to make continued efforts to increase the number of MMR vaccinations throughout the region.