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  • 1 International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia

Measles is a major cause of mortality in complex emergencies. Both high vaccination coverage and vaccine efficacy are required to prevent major epidemics of measles in such situations. Evaluation of field vaccine efficacy is a critical but underutilized component of program monitoring in emergencies, and is particularly important in rural areas where the integrity of the cold chain is difficult to guarantee. In July 2000, we evaluated the field vaccine efficacy for measles vaccination by comparing the incidence of cases in vaccinated and unvaccinated groups during a two-stage cluster survey of 563 children in Ethiopia. Approximately 30% of the measles cases occurred in vaccinated children. Estimated field vaccine efficacy for measles was 66.9% in children 9–36 months old. The finding of a field vaccine efficacy for measles less than 80% warrants formal assessment of measles vaccine efficacy, particularly in famine emergencies where measles is associated with a high case fatality rate.