Mumps and Rubella Vaccine

Oct 25, 2016

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

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The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

"Maybe Eric didn't stand a chance." That thought crossed my mind in Winnipegosis as I was filling out some paperwork. Eric likes math. He likes the multiplication quizzes his teach gives the class. But Eric's hand writing isn't great. He was annoyed he got one wrong on his quiz because his "4" looked like an "h". As I looked at my paperwork, I noticed, again, that my 5's look like S's. My handwriting also sucked in Grade 6. It still does. Maybe Eric's genetics forever dooms him to have terrible and misunderstood handwriting. Or maybe that is just a correlation, not causation.

There is a difference between correlation and causation. Hypothetically, let's say I punch Jenny McCarthy in the nose, and her nose bleeds. In that case, my fist hitting her nose caused McCarthy's nose bleed. That is causation. But if I wore a purple shirt and I won $1000 on a VLT, that is correlation. My purple shirt did not cause me to win the money. They just happened at the same time.

In medical research, bad things happen when correlation and causation get confused. In 1998, there was a study published in the Lancet by Dr. AJ Wakefield. Wakefield claimed the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. He was wrong. In the 12 children he looked at, autism symptoms and the vaccines just happened at the same time. There was no causation. But this was not just another discredited theory. Wakefield was so wrong, the Lancet took the unusual move of retracting the study. On February 2, 2010 the Lancet published a short retraction that said in part "Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council's Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect…Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record." Unfortunately, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy also don't know about the difference between correlation and causation. McCarthy famously went on Oprah to announced the MMR vaccine caused her son's autism and the Wakefield study proved it.

Fast forward to October 2016. Manitoba Public Health officials have confirmed nine cases of mumps since September 1, 2016. Most of those are students at the University of Manitoba. That doesn't sound like a lot. To put those 9 cases in a month and a half in perspective, Manitoba usually has 4-5 cases of mumps per year. Eric likes math. That might be correlated to the fact I like math, so let's look at some more numbers. 2016 minus 1998 equals 18! The kids born the year of Wakefield's study are starting at the U of M this year! Were the parents of the 2016 first year students at the U of M scared into not giving their kids the MMR vaccine? I don't know, but there might be a correlation between Wakefield's disgraced study and a small outbreak of mumps at the U of M.

What is mumps? Mumps is an infectious disease caused by the mumps virus. Mumps is an uncomfortable condition. It can cause painful, swollen saliva glands (usually in the cheeks) and fever. Painful inflammation of the testicles can occur in 1 out of 4 boys beyond puberty and painful inflammation of the ovaries in about 5% of girls beyond puberty. Brain lining inflammation (or meningitis) is a rare but serious possibility. Mumps is spread mainly through respiratory droplets in the air produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms generally occur between 12 to 25 days after infection.

How do you prevent the mumps? The MMR vaccine is very effective. In Manitoba, the MMR vaccine is usually given at age 1 and age 4-6 years. However, there are protocols for giving it to older people, like say students at the U of M. MMR protects 94% of those immunized verses rubella, 81% verses mumps and 88% verses measles. Measles protection goes up to 99% after two vaccinations. Protection is believed to be lifelong in most people for all three diseases.

How do you treat the mumps? We can't. It is a virus, and it just has to run its course. We treat the symptoms like fever, and hope we don't have to try to deal with swollen testicles and meningitis.

Wakefield's 1998 study didn't immediately make waves in the main stream media. The MMR autism link didn't blow up until 2007 when Jenny McCarthy wrote a book blaming her son's autism on vaccines, and Oprah Winfrey gave her an enormous platform to spread her wrong-headed views. That is 9 years after the original Wakefield article. I predict the U of M and other places that collect large numbers of 18 year olds, will have outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella for the next decade. And I predict a HUGE spike in outbreaks in 2025. That will be 18 years after the first McCarthy book. But I'm sure that will be just a correlation with Ms. McCarthy and her rants. So what if there happen to be massive numbers of 18 year olds with mumps in 2025. We can't say McCarthy caused young people in Manitoba to get mumps and the occasional case of life threatening meningitis, can we?

Mumps info -

Lancet retraction link:

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.


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