19 Oct 2017

Mumps outbreak: Health authorities urge free vaccine catch-ups

7:39 am on 19 October 2017

Public health officials in Auckland have told its three district health boards the region urgently needs a large-scale campaign to eliminate mumps.

There are now 637 confirmed or probable cases in the city, up from 300 in early September.

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Photo: AFP

Though people usually recover well from the viral disease, there can be serious complications. So far, about 35 people - 5 percent of cases - have been hospitalised.

In a paper released under the Official Information Act, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service urged the DHBs to make catch-up doses of the mumps vaccine available to about 100,000 people who need it.

The regional health service's clinical director, Julia Peters, said offering people aged 10 to 29 a free measles, mumps and rubella vaccine would be the quickest way to end the outbreak.

When the outbreak began in January, cases mainly involved people from the Pacific either visiting this country or returning to live here.

But the regional health service said most cases are now locally acquired, involving people living here who lack immunity.

The most at-risk group are those aged 10 to 29 - mainly Pacific and Maori living in poorer communities in Auckland. About 77 percent of this age group are not fully vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

District health boards haven't decided yet whether a large-scale programme will happen.

Dr Peters said it would be a major undertaking.

"Doing something like that is a considerable logistical exercise so it would require quite a lot of thought and planning if it was to go ahead.

"It's not just the funding.

"We'd need to assess the size of the at-risk population, it would need to be co-ordinated, staffed, we'd need to ensure the vaccination supplies, communications with the target population, and then the timing and then how it would be rolled out."

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