Here is why children in Nigeria must now take two doses of measles vaccine

  • The government of Nigeria has introduced Measles Containing Vaccine Second Dose (MCV2) into the routine immunization schedule. This took effect from 14th November 2019.
  • The second dose is to be given to eligible children at 15 months of age.
  • With this introduction, the routine immunization schedule in Nigeria has now extended into the second year of life.
  • The first dose of the measles vaccine is given at 9 months of age.
  • The measles vaccines administered at 9 and 15 months are not chemically different in composition. It is the same vaccine. It is only administered at different times to harness the full benefits of the vaccine to the individual and the population.

Children in Nigeria must now take two doses of measle vaccines to get its full benefit. This is part of efforts by the Nigerian government to step up the fight against the deadly disease.

Before 14th November 2019, eligible children were only required to take a single dose of the vaccine at nine months of age.

But why is the second dose of the measles vaccine required when a single dose has been in use since 1978 when the National Programme on Immunization commenced in Nigeria?

According to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the government agency responsible for overseeing routine immunization activities in Nigeria, a single dose of measles vaccine has not helped to prevent measles:

“Despite several decades of measles vaccine use, measles disease still contributes to a huge burden of morbidity and mortality among children in the country with over 17,000 cases reported annually. This is not withstanding the millions spent on investing in measles vaccines and delivery strategies in the country.”

Source: Training Manual for the introduction of Meales Containing vaccine Second Dose (MCV2) into the Routine Immunization Schedule in Nigeria.

It is important to note that measles is a deadly disease that is highly infectious (can easily spread from one person to another in a susceptible population). It is a major cause of death globally among children.

The rationale for the introduction second dose of measles

According to NPHCDA the following are the justifications:

  • A single dose of measles is not enough to attain at least 95% coverage, with >90% coverage needed to build herd immunity. Herd immunity is the type of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a large proportion of a population (or herd) confers protection on individuals who have not developed immunity.
  • Only 85% of children who receive MCV1 will seroconvert, necessitating an opportunity to revaccinate and protect the 15% who failed to seroconvert. Seroconversion is the change from negative antibodies to the production of detectable antibodies against measles in the blood.
  • The second dose will provide an opportunity to vaccinate children who missed the first dose in the first year of life.
  • Currently, 70% of all measles cases are among children under 5 years of age who missed being vaccinated in the first year of life, hence the need to provide an opportunity for them to be vaccinated within the second year of life.
  • The mortality and morbidity from measles and the cost of conducting supplemental immunization activities (SIAs) in response to frequent measles outbreaks will be reduced with the introduction of MCV2 into the routine immunization schedule.
Objectives of Introducing MCV2
  • MCV2 is introduced to children from 15 months of age to build population immunity against measles.
  • MCV2 introduction provides an opportunity to vaccinate children older than one year who missed their first dose of measles and other antigens.
  • MCV2 introduction is an opportunity to establish the foundations for the Second Year of Life (2YL) immunization and other primary health care interventions, such as vitamin A, deworming, long-lasting nets, and growth monitoring to improve survival rates for children under 23 months old.
  • MCV2 introduction will reduce morbidity and mortality from measles in Nigeria. Source: Training Manual for the introduction of Measles Containing vaccine Second Dose (MCV2) into the Routine Immunization Schedule in Nigeria.

It is important to stress that the second dose of measles will not harm your child. The measles vaccine is safe and effective and it is not different in chemical composition from the measles vaccine given at 9 months of age.

Always remember the following:
  • Measles is a dangerous disease caused by a germ (measles virus). Signs of measles include a red blotchy rash over the whole body, fever and a runny nose, red eyes, or a cough
  • Measles can cause serious complications, including eye and ear infections, blindness, deafness, pneumonia, and death
  • In Nigeria, over 17, 000 measles cases are reported every year, affecting mainly children less than 5 years old. Measles causes many deaths each year.
  • Measles can be prevented with the measles vaccine. The measles vaccine is safe and effective.
  • Two doses of measles vaccines are administered to children at 9 and 15 months of age.
  • Two doses of measles vaccine will not cause any harm to the child but will enhance the child’s protection against measles for a lifetime.
  • Measles vaccination may cause mild reactions such as fever, but this subsides in a few days and does not cause long term problems.
  • The risk of complications from natural measles infection and disease is much higher than the risk of mild reactions after vaccination.
  • Take your child for measles second dose at 15 months of age.
  • It is important for caregivers to keep the child health cards of their children beyond the school entry age. Source: Training Manual for the introduction of Measles Containing vaccine Second Dose (MCV2) into the Routine Immunization Schedule in Nigeria.

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona is a medical doctor by training and a writer by passion. Samuel holds a postgraduate degree in Public Health. He believes that communicating medical knowledge goes beyond writing technical reviews. Samuel thus uses his expertise in public health and health systems research to transmit technical information for both academic and general audience. Please email samuel.abiona@essaysinhealth.com to contact this author directly or use the contact page and your information will be passed on to him.