Mumps shot can fail one day

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - STAFF RE­PORTER

With New Zealand in the grip of its worst mumps out­break in decades, an in­fec­tious dis­eases doc­tor is warn­ing peo­ple vac­ci­nated against the dis­ease as chil­dren can lose their pro­tec­tion over time.

In­stances of swollen testes caused by mumps are be­ing re­ported, a con­di­tion that can lead to in­fer­til­ity in men.

Dr Aye­sha Ver­rall, a re­searcher at Otago Univer­sity in Welling­ton, is call­ing on the Min­istry of Health to ‘‘ur­gently’’ fund a third dose of the vac­cine for peo­ple aged 10-29 who have al­ready re­ceived the rec­om­mended two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vac­cine.

Catch-up vac­ci­na­tions for peo­ple who aren’t al­ready fully vac­ci­nated are free.

In­ter­ven­tions an­nounced so far by the Min­istry of Health had tar­geted vac­ci­na­tion at peo­ple who were never vac­ci­nated or those whose vac­ci­na­tions weren’t ‘‘up to date’’.

It would miss peo­ple whose vac­cine pro­tec­tion had waned, Ver­rall said.

‘‘Fail­ing to ad­dress this fact lim­its our abil­ity to re­spond to con­trol the out­break, mean­ing mumps will dis­rupt ed­u­ca­tion, sports and com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties for young peo­ple for the next sev­eral years.

‘‘Fail­ing to com­mu­ni­cate that pre­vi­ously vac­ci­nated peo­ple are sus­cep­ti­ble also risks un­der­min­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in vac­cines.’’

While the vac­cine was about 90 per cent ef­fec­tive, its pro­tec­tion re­duced over time.

‘‘While most peo­ple vac­ci­nated in child­hood will still be pro­tected, many will learn they were in fact sus­cep­ti­ble to mumps when they catch the dis­ease,’’ Ver­rall said. Third dose Re­cent stud­ies had shown that dur­ing an out­break, young adults in high risk set­tings could ben­e­fit from a third dose of the MMR vac­cine, even if they had com­pleted their two doses as a child.

The mumps out­break started in Auck­land in early 2017.

More than 1000 cases have since been re­ported, some from cen­tres other than Auck­land.

Be­cause vac­ci­nated peo­ple could lose their pro­tec­tion from mumps over time, a sig­nif­i­cant mi­nor­ity of the peo­ple who had de­vel­oped mumps in the out­break were vac­ci­nated, Ver­rall said.

Added to the prob­lem that pro­tec­tion from the vac­cine re­duced over time, up­take of the MMR vac­cine had been low when peo­ple who were now ado­les­cents and young adults had been chil­dren.

‘‘Some es­ti­mate we have 570,000 peo­ple sus­cep­ti­ble to the mumps virus and they are at risk in an out­break that will take years to burn out.’’

Ver­rall is crit­i­cal of ef­forts made to con­tain the dis­ease.

If health au­thor­i­ties had been se­ri­ous about stop­ping the out- break, a catch-up vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign for ado­les­cents and young adults who were not fully vac­ci­nated should have started five years ago, she said.

An out­break of measles in Auck­land in 2014 had iden­ti­fied young adults as a risk group due to the low MMR vac­cine cov­er­age.

As a re­sult of that The New Zealand Med­i­cal Jour­nal called for a catch-up cam­paign in Septem­ber 2015.

Mumps causes a fever, headache, mus­cle aches and most cases have swollen sali­vary glands, usu­ally on both sides of the face.

It is spread from peo­ple by saliva or mu­cous droplets spread when cough­ing.

Oc­ca­sion­ally it can cause se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions like menin­gi­tis and hear­ing loss.

Be­cause it is caused by a virus, an­tibi­otics are not an ef­fec­tive treat­ment for mumps.


Gilly Thorpe, a marine mam­mal ob­server for the Ama­zon War­rior, shuts down seismic sur­vey­ing when she spots wildlife.

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