Second mumps vaccination urged for some

Peggy Revell

If they haven’t already done so, those born between 1970 and 1991 are encouraged to head to their nearest health-care provider to receive a second vaccination against mumps as part of a province-wide effort to control the disease.
“People should feel free to call the health unit, anybody born between ’70 and ’91, because the susceptibility to mumps in that group is decreased a lot if they have a second shot,” noted Donna Stanley, manager of controls of infectious disease for the Northwestern Health Unit.
Besides the health unit, the vaccination also is available at local health clinics and through family doctors.
Mumps is contagious disease which commonly causes swollen glands in their neck, resulting in sort of “chipmunk cheeks,” Stanley explained, adding it also can cause swelling of the testicles in males.
It’s spread through person-to-person contact, such as coughing, sneezing, and the spreading of saliva.
“Particularly when people get sick with this when they’re adults, they can be really sick,” Stanley stressed.
The “MMR” vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella is a publicly-funded, routine vaccination, currently given to children at the age of 12 months, with a second dose given at the age of 18 months.
According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the incidence of mumps in Ontario is “very low,” with only about 20 reported cases per year across the province.
But outbreaks of the disease have occurred in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and other provinces over the past few years.
The province has been immunizing with MMR since 1970, said Stanley, although those born between 1970 and 1991 only received one dose of the vaccination.
Immunization assessment is ongoing, she noted, and studies found that for those born between 1970 and 1991, having the second shot “really increased the protection for that group.”
“If you’ve had an immunization and you encounter a disease, it can kind of boost your immunity because your body has seen it before with the immunization,” Stanley explained.
Following an immunization, if exposed to the disease again, “your body jumps into action with its immune system.”
People born before 1970 likely got the measles, mumps, or rubella as a child, or were exposed enough to it to become immune, Stanley said. Meanwhile, those born after 1991 are exposed a second time with the second immunization.
As exposure to mumps decreases like it has over the past decades, it means that when it does arise, those with only the one vaccination are more susceptible to it.
“So that’s part of the reason why this age group needs the second one,” Stanley remarked.
She especially urges students who are in their final year of high school to get their second vaccination since they also are the ones who have grown up with little to no exposure to the disease.
“Students who are currently finishing high school, getting ready to go potentially off to college or university, they should definitely give us a call and come in to get their shot,” she stressed.
“They’re going into situations where people are living in close quarters, and it’s easy to pass diseases around,” she added. “So getting the immunization, that group I would say really should think about coming in before heading off to school in the fall.”
Since mumps is a contagious disease the province is trying to control, the current recommendation for people who have caught it is isolation for nine days, Stanley noted.
“So, basically, if someone was going to university or college, and they got the mumps, they would be asked not to go to school for nine days, which is kind of a problem when you’re going to school,” she said.
“Helping to try to avoid getting it in the first place is kind of a good plan.”