Long term control of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome relies on high population-level immunity against rubella, particularly among women of childbearing age. In Canada, all pregnant women should be screened so that susceptible new mothers can be offered vaccination for rubella before discharge. This study was undertaken to estimate rubella susceptibility in a cohort of pregnant women in Canada and to identify associated socio-economic and demographic factors. Biobanked plasma samples were obtained from the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) study, in which pregnant women were recruited between 2008 and 2011.
Socio-demographic characteristics and obstetric histories were collected. Second trimester plasma samples (n = 1,752) were tested for rubella-specific IgG using an in-house enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The percentage of women with IgG titers<5 IU/mL, 5–10 IU/mL, and ≥10 IU/mL were 2.3%, 10.1%, and 87.6%, respectively. Rates of seronegativity, defined as <5 IU/mL, were 3.1% in women who had no previous live birth and 1.6% in women who had given birth previously. Among the latter group, seronegativity was higher in women with high school education or less (adjusted OR (aOR) 5.93, 95% CI 2.08–16.96) or with a college or trade school diploma (aOR 3.82, 95% CI 1.45–10.12), compared to university graduates, and those born outside Canada (aOR 2.60, 95% CI 1.07–6.31). In conclusion, a large majority of pregnant women were found to be immune to rubella. Further research is needed to understand inequalities in vaccine uptake or access, and more effort is needed to promote catch-up measles-mumps-rubella vaccination among socioeconomically disadvantaged and immigrant women of childbearing age.