The number of recorded cases of mumps is at its highest level in nearly a decade. Mumps is a contagious infection that causes the glands on the side of the face to swell painfully. A person’s risk of contracting mumps is reduced by having the MMR vaccine. The steep rise in cases is being seen in students at universities and colleges. These students were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s and did not have the MMR vaccine when they were children. This was partly because Dr Andrew Wakefield, a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London, published a 1998 paper in The Lancet, claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This led to a dramatic drop in children being vaccinated and as a result, the number of cases of mumps in the last decade has been on the rise.
However, this is not the only outbreak of mumps that the UK has experienced. The graph below shows that after 2002, there was a big increase in confirmed mumps cases in the UK. This peaked in 2005 and smaller peaks occurred in 2009 and 2013. Most of these cases have been in teenagers and young adults who were too old to be offered the MMR vaccine when it was introduced in 1988. They also missed a second MMR dose when this was introduced in 1996. Again, as is being seen now, these outbreaks were mainly among students at universities and colleges.
Andrew Wakefield’s work has since been completely discredited and he has been struck off as a doctor in the UK.
Children up to the age of 18 who missed, or only partially completed, their earlier MMR vaccination can have a “catch-up” MMR vaccination on the NHS.
Adults who missed out on the MMR vaccination as a baby and are therefore not immune, can also have the MMR vaccine on the NHS.
Mrs Goodwill, Science Department