Background: In trials comparing different formulations of measles vaccine, excess non-specific mortality occurred in female children who received high titer vaccine. These findings suggest a gender-specific effect of measles vaccine.
Objectives: To determine whether gender differences exist in the rates of adverse reactions and morbidity in the month following immunization with measles-containing vaccine, and to evaluate whether there is a gender-specific association between the humoral immune response to measles vaccination and post-vaccination morbidity.
Methods: Parents completed questionnaires on the health status of 755 infants aged 15-20 months, during the month preceding and the month following the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Blood samples were tested for measles antibody titers in a subsample of 237 infants.
Results: After controlling background morbidity in the infants, the relative risk of fever and rash following vaccination was 2.35 in females and 1.36 in males. The geometric mean antibody titers against measles were similar in both sexes and there was no significant association between antibody titer and post-vaccination morbidity in either sex.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate higher rates of adverse effects in females following vaccination with MMR vaccine, irrespective of the humoral response. This study emphasizes the need to consider possible gender differences when evaluating new vaccines.