Low immunisation of MMR vaccine leading to mumps outbreak in Kerala

In India, the government made MR vaccine in Universal immunization in 2019, just before the Covid19, leaving Mumps component out.

BySumit Jha

Published Mar 13, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedMar 13, 2024 | 8:00 AM

Low immunisation of MMR vaccine leading to mumps outbreak in Kerala

Kerala is currently grappling with a mumps outbreak, with approximately 2,505 cases reported in March alone. The overall tally for mumps in the state has reached 11,467 cases in 2024.

Health officials in Kerala noted a significant spike on Sunday, 10 March, when 190 new cases were reported in a single day.

In response to the escalating situation, the National Centre for Disease Control has been notified.

Health officials and paediatricians in the state are attributing the surge in mumps cases to a notable deficiency in childhood vaccinations.

Also Read: Kerala panel suggests anti-rabies vaccines for kids

What is mumps?

Mumps is an illness caused by a paramyxovirus virus that affects the glands on each side of the face, known as parotid glands, which produce saliva.

The symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and swelling of the salivary glands, leading to puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw.

The virus is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected saliva.

Complications of mumps can include swollen testicles or ovaries, encephalitis, meningitis, hearing loss, pancreatitis, and miscarriage if contracted during pregnancy.

Vaccination with the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) shot is the most effective way to prevent mumps infections.

Most people recover from mumps within two weeks with supportive care to alleviate symptoms like pain and discomfort.

But in India, MMR vaccine is not in universal immunisation. Only Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccine is in the universal immunisation programme.

The universal immunisation programme in India is one of the largest public health programmes across the world, aiming to provide free vaccines to all beneficiaries as per the National Immunisation Schedule.

This programme covers a wide range of vaccines and targets all sections of society, including pregnant women and children, ensuring high-quality vaccines are accessible across the country.

Also Read: Dengue is peculiar and a vaccine can even be counterproductive

The problem with mumps vaccination

In India, the government made the MR vaccine mandatory in the Universal Immunisation Programme in 2019, just before the Covid-19, leaving the mumps component out.

Earlier, parents used to visit private immunisation centres to get the MMR vaccine for their children.

“As MR became part of the UIP, parents started to come to government health centres and took the MR vaccine, without the mumps shot,” a health official from the Malappuram district of Kerala, where the current outbreak is the biggest, told South First.

“But, the Covid-19 pandemic started and the UIP programme was halted. The kids born during those two years did not get vaccinated with even the MR. The current outbreak is due to the low immunisation against mumps in the state,” said the health official.

Kochi-based paediatrician Dr Sachidhananda Kamath confirmed all of this to South First.

He added that even after the pandemic, the awareness among the people about the mumps vaccine was quite low.

“The cost of a single-dose MMR vaccine is just ₹660, and it is administered to kids at the age of nine to 15 months. Due to low awareness, the kids did not get immunised. Now the trend is going up due to the recent outbreak and parents are coming to private centres to get MMR vaccines,” said Kamath.

He added that the recommendation by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) to administer the MMR vaccine in the fifth year was also not consistently followed, despite disease surveillance considerations. The IAP also recommends a third dose in the fifth year.

The health official also added that the patients coming in with mumps had been immunised with the MR vaccine.

“Mass vaccinations of MMR vaccine is needed at the moment. The government is trying to get MMR vaccination in its UIP as well, but it will take time,” said the health official.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)