Dr Christian: The importance of vaccinations
13th January 2020
There is currently an extremely concerning outbreak of mumps spreading across Britain. With more than 7,200 cases reported in the second half of 2019, this figure is dangerously high for an illness that should be virtually eradicated.
What’s caused the outbreak?
We spoke to our favourite expert, Dr Christian, to find out more:
“The development of vaccinations was one of the most important breakthroughs in medicine, making infections that used to kill millions far, far less threatening. They changed people’s lives on a global scale. Vaccines are the reason why we are in a better position in terms of health than we have ever been before. They even meant we could completely eradicate certain diseases.
"Unfortunately, as a result of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ people have forgotten the terrible consequences of these infections. Combined with much misinformation and discredited research that persists on the Internet, people are choosing to forgo vaccines, resulting in a resurgence of many preventable infections, like this current mumps outbreak."
The vaccination for mumps is part of the combined MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) and it was first introduced in 1988. Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the safety of the vaccine (not to mention that it's highly effective), many parents decided not to vaccinate their children, often under the influence of the highly manipulative and pernicious “anti-vax” movement.
“This movement involves a lot of spreading of misinformation about the safety and side effects associated with vaccines but unfortunately, it’s widely believed and many people don’t vaccinate their children because of it” explains Dr Christian.
This is particularly true of the 1990s, when there was a fall in the uptake of the MMR vaccine. Those children not vaccinated at that time are now in their early twenties, which is the age group most affected by the current outbreak of mumps in the UK.
What is mumps?
Mumps is a highly contagious viral disease that mainly affects children but can affect adults too. The main symptoms are the signature swelling of the parotid glands (a pair of saliva glands on either side of your jaw, just below your ear), causing pain, tenderness and difficulty eating.
Other symptoms include headaches, high temperatures, feeling tired, a loss of appetite, joint pain and dry mouth.
Commenting on how the disease is spread, Dr Christian said: “Symptoms usually develop 14 to 25 days after coming into contact with the virus and you are most contagious from a few days before the swelling of the glands appears, to a few days after. This is why the disease is spread so easily - because you could be passing it on before you even realise you have it.”
How to stop the spread of mumps
Not only is mumps unpleasant, but it can also cause dangerous complications such as viral meningitis and swelling of the testes or ovaries. There is also no treatment (other than to manage symptoms with painkillers) so it’s an illness you simply have to endure - which means all the better to protect against it.
“The MMR vaccination is without question the best way to avoid the infection. Being a combined vaccine means fewer injections are needed and there is less chance of the diseases being spread during the wait from one dose to the next.” says Dr Christian.
“The fact that some parents choose not to get their children vaccinated is a public health risk and one that should be remedied as soon as possible. Luckily, for any teenagers or adults who were not vaccinated when they were younger, there is a “catch-up” MMR vaccination available to protect them going forwards” urges Dr Christian.
The MMR vaccine is especially important because measles, in particular, can have very serious complications, such as pneumonia. Considering that Britain lost its measles-free status last year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated and prevent outbreaks of diseases like the current mumps one we’re experiencing.