Seroprevalence of rubella antibodies and determinants of susceptibility to rubella in a cohort of pregnant women in Canada, 2008–2011 (Lay summary)

Gilbert NL, Rotondo J, Shapiro J, Sherrard L, Fraser WD, Ward BJ. Vaccine. 2017 May 25;35(23):3050-3055. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.04.057.

Rubella is a viral disease causing short-term skin rash and a fever that lasts no more than three days in children and young adults. Although rare, rubella in pregnant women can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects affecting the eyes, hearing, heart and brain. Canadians have been immunized against rubella since at least 1983; however, some third world countries did not include rubella in routine vaccinations until recent years. All pregnant women should be tested for rubella antibodies and those who are not immune (resistant to) rubella should be offered vaccination for rubella after the birth of their child.

This study was done to estimate how many pregnant women in Canada are not immune to rubella.

In this MIREC Biobank project, second trimester maternal blood samples (n = 1,752) were tested for rubella antibodies.  Overall, 2.3% of the women in the study were not immune to rubella.  Women who had not had a previous live birth, did not have a university degree or were born outside of Canada were more likely to not be immune to rubella.

In conclusion, a large majority of pregnant women were found to be immune to rubella. Further research is needed to understand why some women were not immune to rubella.  More effort is needed to promote measles-mumps-rubella vaccination among women with less education and immigrant women of childbearing age.