'Mumps vaccine necessary, but doesn’t give full protection'

Health Ministry warns protection wanes as kids grow older, and is not as effective in close quarters, such as at yeshivot.

February 8, 2010 23:12
2 minute read.
The mumps virus.

mumps 311.187. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The mumps vaccine, routinely given to young children, offers those who get the shot less protection against the infectious disease as they grow older, and does not always prevent them from getting it, especially when they are in close quarters, as in yeshivot or in the military, according the Health Ministry’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Slater.

Since the beginning of January, there have been 525 cases of the mumps in Israel. The new outbreak began as a result of a haredi child who attended a Jewish summer camp in Monsey and New Square, New York, and later spread to Israel.

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Slater said that the mumps, which can cause complications, is very infectious and spreads via droplets from the nose and mouth. The outbreak has reached not only Israel’s haredi community, but also the IDF, he said.

Israel and other Western countries used to give children only one mumps vaccination, but in recent years, it has been changed to two shots, said Slater. Even so, “the mumps vaccine is weaker than other viral vaccines” and doesn’t protect all those who have been vaccinated, he said. Even two doses protect no more than 90 percent of the population against infection.

Nevertheless, he said, mumps vaccination is important for all children.

Slater said he had no reports of vaccine coverage against a variety of childhood diseases among haredim, as compared to other Jews. The only comparison his office has is between Arab and Jewish Israelis, he said, and he knows of no scientific study of child vaccinations in the haredi community. The 15 district health offices around the country may have collected some information about vaccination rates among haredim, he said, but he had not received it.

The most common symptoms of mumps are fever, headache and swollen salivary glands under the jaw. According to Dr. Amelia Anis of the epidemiology department, most of the mumps cases have been in the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramle and Petah Tikva districts and sub-districts.

There have been reports that some haredim fear vaccinating their babies because their rabbinical leaders do not believe in them or think they may cause harm.

A “scientific study” published in British medical journal The Lancet that found a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an increased risk of autism was recently retracted by the journal because it was based on shoddy research. Yet the rumors have deterred some parents around the world from vaccinating their children.

A few years ago, a British hassid who had contracted measles came to Israel to attend a huge wedding and infected the  guests, who in turn infected many thousands of Israelis. Investigators said the current outbreak started in August 2009 at a Jewish summer camp in Monsey and New Square, areas that have a mostly haredi population.

Some Israeli haredi parents have said they do not fully vaccinate their children because Tipat Halav (well-baby) centers charge a fee, but since January, these services have become free. The ministry said it didn’t know whether this had resulted in more widespread vaccination.

Anis said the ministry was not considering the possibility of requiring patients to take their children for vaccination; it was strictly voluntary.

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