Free dose of vaccine offered in response to mumps outbreak

People aged 11 to 30 particularly hard-hit with 253 cases notified to HSE this month

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The first dose is given at 12 months of age and the second at four to five years. File photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The first dose is given at 12 months of age and the second at four to five years. File photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters.

 

Thousands of young people are being offered a free dose of the MMR vaccine in an attempt to contain the biggest outbreak of mumps in a decade.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is urging anyone aged between 11 and 30 who has not had two doses of the vaccine, or who is unsure of their vaccine status, to avail of the offer due to a “significant” rise in cases of the virus.

This age-group has been particularly hard hit in the current outbreak so it is “vital” parents and young adults are aware the MMR vaccine is the only way to stop its spread, Dr Suzanne Cotter, public health specialist at the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said.

Dozens of second-level schools, and all the main third-level institutions, have been affected by the outbreak.

There were 2,762 cases of mumps in the State last year, compared to 573 in 2018. The HSE has been notified of 253 cases so far this year.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The first dose is given at 12 months of age and the second at four to five years.

Waning immunity

Although most cases have involved unvaccinated people, waning immunity has also played a role.

“Parents must make sure that their children and teenagers are protected against mumps by ensuring they have been immunised with two doses of MMR,” Dr Cotter said.

“A third dose of MMR won’t cause any harm so anyone unsure of whether they have had two doses or not can safely receive the vaccine again.

“Mumps is a highly infectious and dangerous illness which spreads very easily, particularly in homes, crèches, playgroups, camps, schools and universities. It can be a serious illness and can have life-changing repercussions in some instances.”

The current uptake of the vaccine is 91 per cent by 24 months, which is good by international standards but below the target of 95 per cent needed to prevent measles outbreaks.

Parents and young adults should speak to their GP or student health service and get the vaccine free if needed, Dr Cotter advises.