Mumps and the NHL

Thanks to information from Mr. Sports, a.k.a. Mr. Desert, I’ve been reading about the mumps outbreak in the NHL–now up to 15 players with the disease. An epidemiologist I read attributes the spread to waning immunity and the need to update the MMR vaccination schedule since most players with the disease were vaccinated as kids.

000810_265I had the vaccine and the mumps as a kid. Having the mumps was awful. I was 6 or 7, and I still remember the fever, aches, lock-jaw. I remember a week or more of a liquid diet because I could barely open my mouth. And I remember my Dad learning that really hot soup could melt a plastic straw. My best friend at the time, Casey Jones, gave them to me. I was mad at her for weeks!

So waning immunity and the need to update the MMR vaccination schedule. I’m sure this will fuel the anti-vaccine crowd–not only do vaccines cause autism and a host of other problems, they don’t work forever!

I’m not here to debate the use of vaccines. If I had children, I would vaccinate them, and I would want the children my child went to school with to be vaccinated as well. Vaccines work! How many people do you know today who have polio?

However, we ought not be surprised to learn our protective antibodies wane over time. Hell, everything else does.

But think about it for a moment. The flu vaccine was introduced in 1945; in 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the the Vaccination Assistance Act into law. It allowed the CDC to support mass immunization campaigns and to initiate maintenance programs and in 1963,

The Federal Immunization Grant Program was established. The grants, authorized under section 317 of the Public Health Service Act, were made to states to provide funds to purchase vaccines and to support basic functions of an immunization program. The only vaccines available at the time were DTP, polio, and smallpox.

In 1964, The Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP) to the U.S. Public Health Service was formed to review the recommended childhood immunization schedule and note changes in manufacturers’ vaccine formulations, revise recommendations for the use of licensed vaccines, and make recommendations for newly licensed vaccines.

So wide spread vaccination practices began just over 50 years ago.  That polio and small pox have been eradicated and other diseases for which there are vaccinations are increasingly rare demonstrates these vaccines are effective. So we know vaccines work. What we don’t yet know how long they work.

We learn new things about vaccines all the time. Just a few years ago my vet informed me I didn’t need to get my dogs and cats vaccinated every year because as with the rabies vaccine, new studies had shown that the vaccines for distemper and feline leukemia, for instance, resulted in longer lasting antibody loads than they originally thought.

Many NHL teams are now offering MMR boosters to their players; maybe those boosters will one day be recommended for those of use who got the MMR vaccine when we were 2 and again when we were eight. If so, I’ll be among the first in line.

I’d much rather get a quick injection than a horrible disease.

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