1964 First Measles Vaccine

Two workers make openings in chicken eggs in preparation for a measles vaccine | Photo: World Health Organization Photo by by D. Henrioud

During an outbreak of measles in Boston, Massachusetts in 1954, Dr. Thomas C. Peebles and John F. Enders collected blood samples from numerous ill students. Their goal was to isolate the strain of the measles virus from the blood samples and use it to synthesize a measles vaccine. The doctors succeeded in doing so using the blood taken from David Edmonston (a boy of 13).

In 1963, Dr. Enders and his associates turned the Edmonston-B measles virus strain into a potent vaccine, which they then licensed in the United States. In the same year, two measles vaccines were licensed. The both had the Edmonston-B strain that Dr. Enders isolated in 1954. These vaccines were:

• Pfizer-Vax Measles-K –killed or inactivated virus vaccine by Pfizer.
• Rubeovax—attenuated, live vaccine by Merck.

Five years later a weaker measles virus vaccine was improved and distributed by a team led by Maurice Hilleman. The measles vaccine was then named Edmonston-Enders strain. Since 1968, the said strain was the only one used in the United States.
The measles vaccine is usually administered with rubella (MMR) and mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV). When the vaccine was approved, one dose of Rubeovax was 95% effective in measles prevention. The protection from measles lasted more than three years and eight months.

The Story of the Measles Vaccine

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