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16:56 PM

KC Star: Do you need a third mumps vaccine?

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson

Think you’re safe from mumps because you had your two vaccinations back when you were a kid?

Recent outbreaks — 360 students at the University of Missouri in Columbia battled the mumps this school year — have researchers thinking that two Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccines might not be enough.

In what’s sure to disappoint needle-shy kids, they’re studying whether to add a third shot to the childhood vaccine regimen. They even are considering recommending a third shot for young adults in outbreak zones.

Every one of the infected MU students had been vaccinated as a child. But to try to stop the outbreak, MU told students that over the winter break they should get the third dose, which costs $100.

Nick Kelly, a freshman from Minnesota, said that caused a stir in his hometown doctor’s office.

“There was a lot of confusion and uncertainty as to why I was back for a third,” Kelly said. “They thought I’d be fine. I said, ‘Well, Mizzou suggested I get a third, and I’d like to not get the mumps, so that’s why I’m here.’ ”

Why the confusion? Well, even some of the nation’s top infectious disease experts aren’t sure that a third dose of MMR does any good.

“There’s no harm in getting a third dose,” said Dr. William Atkinson, a retired Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist. “It’s just that we’re not completely certain that strategy is useful.”

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has formed a work group to find out.

Dr. Atkinson, who has been part of other committee work groups, said the work group will be especially interested in outbreak zones like MU.

The CDC’s current recommendations call for two doses of MMR: one at 12 to 15 months of age and a booster between ages 4 and 6. CDC recommendations generally determine what vaccines are covered by insurance and the vaccine schedule most doctors follow.

Because most of the population is vaccinated, most people who get the mumps now have had the vaccine. At the February meeting when the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices formed the work group, a researcher said that’s causing a loss of confidence in the shot.

The outbreak at the University of Missouri and mini-outbreaks in Kansas contributed to 5,311 cases reported to the CDC in 2016. That’s the most the country has seen since 2006.

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Mercy, said the decision to recommend a third shot will hinge on whether its effectiveness outweighs the cost of mass vaccination at $100 per shot and the possible side effects.

Dr. Jackson said the MMR shot is safe, but it sometimes causes joint pain when given to women after puberty.

“I think there’s a lot of things that need to be considered,” Dr. Jackson said, “and I think that’s why you don’t see the CDC moving very quickly on this.”

Dr. Jackson said even in areas where the mumps is spreading, it’s not as severe as it was before the vaccine.

“It appears to be strikingly more mild than it used to be,” Dr. Jackson said.


Read the full article via Kansas City Star.

Learn more about recent mumps outbreaks.

Learn more about The Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy.