A significant rise in the number of mumps cases has prompted the HSE to urge certain groups or those unsure of their immunisation status to avail of a free dose of the MMR vaccine.
The health authority is urging anyone aged between 11 and 30 years of age who has not had two doses of the vaccine, or who are unsure of their vaccine status, to avail of the free offer. Children aged 11 to 18 and adults aged up to 30 have been particularly affected by the mumps outbreak.
It is vital that parents and young adults are aware that the MMR vaccine is the only way to stop the spread of mumps, according to public health specialist at the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dr Suzanne Cotter.
“Secondary schools and third level institutions have seen the highest incidences of mumps,” she says. “During 2019 the number of mumps cases continued to rise and we saw 2,762 cases [nationally] compared with 573 cases the previous year. To date in 2020, 253 cases have already been notified to the HSE.”
Vaccination with MMR vaccine is the only way to protect against mumps, she outlines. “The vaccine also protects against measles and rubella. In Ireland, the first MMR dose is given at 12 months of age, and the second dose at four to five years of age.
“Parents must make sure that their children and teenagers are protected against mumps by ensuring they have been immunised with two doses of MMR.
“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, schools, and universities. It can be a serious illness and can have life changing repercussions in some instances.
She advises parents and young adults to contact their GP or student health service and get the vaccine free of charge for their child or themselves if necessary.
“At the moment, 91% of children in Ireland have received one dose of MMR by 24 months of age. While this is a good uptake by international standards it is below the target of 95% to prevent cases of measles and measles outbreaks.”