During 2017 a significant mumps outbreak has affected over 800 people, mostly in Auckland. Those aged 10 to 29 years have been most affected, as this age group has lower immunisation rates.
The Ministry of Health recommends that everyone aged 48 years or younger (that is, everyone born from 1 January 1969) checks whether they have received two doses of MMR vaccine. If not, they should get immunised. The vaccine is free from general practices. If you no longer have your immunisation records (usually in your Well Child Tamariki Ora or Plunket book), the vaccines you have received may be recorded in your medical files at your general practice. If you’re not sure whether you or your child has had two doses of MMR, it’s safer to get vaccinated as there’s no additional risk to having a third dose.
Children are usually given the first dose of MMR vaccine at age 15 months and the second dose at age 4 years. During outbreaks, children can be given the second dose a month after the first.
Many teenagers and young adults are not fully protected against mumps, measles or rubella, because they have missed one or more doses of the vaccine as young children. The National Immunisation Schedule changed several times between 1990 and 2005 – young people born in this period may have missed a dose as a result. This age group is more vulnerable to outbreaks of these diseases. Those born overseas (particularly in the Pacific Islands) may not have been offered mumps immunisation as young children.
Waitemata DHB is providing MMR immunisation through some secondary schools in late 2017 and early 2018. If your child is being offered immunisation at school, they will bring home a consent form for you to complete and return.
Questions and answers
How effective is the MMR vaccine?
Two doses of MMR vaccine will protect more than 95 percent of people from measles and rubella, and around 85 percent of people from mumps. Protection against measles and rubella is long lasting but immunity to mumps can lessen over time. A small number of people who are immunised may still become ill. If that happens, they usually get a milder illness than people who have not been immunised.
How can I find out whether my child has received two doses of MMR?
You can check your child's Well Child Tamariki Ora (or Plunket) Book for immunisation records, or you can contact your child's general practice. Children born from 2005 onwards will have their immunisations recorded on the National Immunisation Register. If you can't find your child's records, it's safer to get vaccinated. There’s no additional risk to having a third dose.
Do adults need to be immunised against mumps and measles?
Anyone aged 49 years or over (as of November 2017) is likely to have caught measles and mumps as children, and to be immune to the diseases as a result. Anyone younger than this is recommended to have two doses of MMR.
Are there any common myths about MMR vaccine?
In 1998 a study was published claiming a connection between MMR vaccine and autism in a small number of children. The study has since been retracted as the data it used was falsified and unethically obtained. The lead author of the paper has had his medical licence revoked as a result. Many large studies since then have found no association between MMR and autistic spectrum disorder.
MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine that has never included mercury-based preservatives or aluminium-based adjuvants (substances which enhance the body’s immune response).
There is no evidence that the weakened viruses in MMR vaccine can spread (or ‘shed’) from the vaccinated person to infect others.
Who shouldn’t receive the MMR vaccine?
There are very few people who shouldn’t be immunised. If you have had a serious reaction to a vaccine in the past, are being treated for cancer or other severe illness, or have had a blood transfusion or other blood products in the last year, you should talk to your doctor, specialist or nurse about whether it’s safe to be immunised.
MMR vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.
People with asthma or allergies, or who are recovering from a minor illness such as the common cold can still be immunised.