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Image / Editorial

Free dose of MMR vaccine offered to 11 to 30 year olds due to ‘significant’ rise in the mumps

by Jennifer McShane
22nd Jan 2020

The HSE has urged anyone aged between 11 and 30 years of age who has not had two doses of the MMR vaccine, or who are unsure of their vaccine status, to avail of the offer of a free dose of the MMR vaccine due to a significant rise in cases of mumps

Children aged 11-18 and adults aged up to 30 have been particularly affected by the mumps outbreak so it is vital that parents and young adults are aware that the MMR vaccine is the only way to stop the spread of mumps, according to public health specialist at the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dr Suzanne Cotter.

“Secondary schools and third-level institutions have seen the highest incidences of mumps. During 2019 the number of mumps cases continued to rise and we saw 2,762 cases compared with 573 cases the previous year. To date in 2020, 253 cases have already been notified to the HSE.

“Vaccination with MMR vaccine is the only way to protect against mumps. The vaccine also protects against measles and rubella.

‘In Ireland, the first MMR dose is given at 12 months of age, and the second dose at 4-5 years of age’

“Parents must make sure that their children and teenagers are protected against mumps by ensuring they have been immunised with two doses of MMR. A third dose of MMR won’t cause any harm so anyone unsure of whether they have had two doses or not can safely receive the vaccine again.”

Highly infectious 

“Mumps is a highly infectious and dangerous illness which spreads very easily, particularly in homes, crèches, playgroups, camps, schools and universities. It can be a serious illness and can have life-changing repercussions in some instances,” Dr Cotter continued.

“Parents and young adults should speak with their GP or student health service and get the vaccine free of charge for their child or themselves if needed.

“At the moment, 91 per cent of children in Ireland have received one dose of MMR by 24 months of age. While this is a good uptake by international standards it is below the target of 95pc to prevent cases of measles and measles outbreaks.”


The symptoms of mumps usually develop 14-25 days after being infected with the mumps virus (the incubation period). The average incubation period is around 17 days.

Swelling of the parotid glands is the most common symptom of mumps. The parotid glands are a pair of glands that are responsible for producing saliva. They are located on either side of your face, just below your ears.

Both glands are usually affected by the swelling, although in a minority of cases, only one gland is affected.

The swelling causes additional symptoms, including:

– Pain and tenderness in the swollen glands.
– Pain on swallowing and/or difficulty swallowing.

Other symptoms of the mumps include:

  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Mild abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Main photograph: Unsplash