The Government is warning of a Mumps ‘outbreak’ across England, after new statistics reveal that there were 5,042 lab-confirmed cases of mumps in England in 2019, compared to 1,066 cases in 2018. Gov UK says this is the highest number of cases since 2009.
More recently, there have already been 546 confirmed cases in January 2020 compared to 191 during the same period in 2019 - a rise which the Government says has been largely driven by outbreaks in universities and colleges.
Many of the cases in 2019 were seen in the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’ – young adults born in the late nineties and early 2000s who missed out on the MMR vaccine when they were children.
Wakefield was the doctor who published research suggesting a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism, causing a scare and ultimately a decline in the uptake of the MMR vaccine.
The best protection against mumps and its complications is to have “two doses of the MMR vaccine. It’s never too late to catch up,” reminded Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at Public Health England.
She went on to encourage all students and young people who may have missed out on their MMR vaccine in the past to “contact their GP practice and get up to date as soon as possible.”
Vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself from mumps. It prevents most, but not all, cases of mumps and even if a vaccinated person does get mumps, they will likely have a less severe illness than an unvaccinated person.
Last year a survey revealed that one in seven five-year-olds may not be fully up to date with some routine immunisations, with the figure rising to around one in four children in London.
PHE also estimated that over 30,000 (around one in nineteen) five-year-olds may still need to receive their first dose of MMR, leaving them significantly more at risk compared to pupils who are fully vaccinated and around 90,000 (or one in seven) five-year-olds in England may still need to receive their second dose of MMR vaccine.
Almost 30,000 of these children are in London, meaning that around one in four primary school starters in the capital don’t have the full protection that the MMR vaccine offers.