Experts call for vaccination campaign after mumps epidemic

The mumps outbreak in Auckland has become an epidemic, and experts are calling for a nationwide vaccination campaign.

More than 1000 people contracted the disease in Auckland alone in the last year, which Auckland University vaccinology senior lecturer Helen Petousis-Harris says is a big concern.

"Until we can reduce the portion of people in the population who are susceptible, potentially you're just going to continue to see the disease."

The problem stems back decades. The generation now aged between 11 and 29 are most at risk, because many aren't fully vaccinated.

"We didn't do very well with our coverage," says Ms Petousis-Harris. "We didn't get a high uptake. In fact in some parts of some communities, the uptake was less than 20 percent." 

It is estimated that 40 percent of the population is not fully vaccinated. That means around 570,000 New Zealanders are at risk.

Potential side effects of mumps include sterility in men. 

Many Kiwis don't know if their MMR vaccinations are up to date. Health officials say the most important thing Kiwis can do is get checked, advice echoed by Ms Petousis-Harris.

"It's about perhaps just thinking about whether you can be absolutely sure that you've had this vaccine, and if you're not sure you've had two doses, then go get a dose." 

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service says the epidemic could last for up to two years, and we may not have seen the worst of it yet.