Older teens are being urged to check their vaccine status with their GP due to the high number of mumps cases last year.
Over a third of 16-18 year olds do not believe that measles, mumps or rubella can affect them at their age and 22% do not know if they have had the MMR vaccination, according to a survey commissioned by the Department of Health.
This is despite Health Protection Agency data showing that mumps is not uncommon within this age group. There were 2,224 confirmed cases of mumps reported amongst 15-19 year olds in England and Wales between January and November 2009.
The survey revealed a variety of reasons for teenagers missing the MMR jab, from 23% saying they were afraid of needles to 10% citing a dislike of going to the doctor.
It also showed that young people’s biggest health worry is sexually transmitted infections (STIs), with over half of those surveyed admitting they are most concerned about this issue and two thirds 63% believed that the STI they were most likely to catch was chlamydia.
Conversely, the survey indicated that young people are ill-informed about the potential consequences of catching measles, mumps or rubella. Only 13% were aware that mumps rarely causes deafness and just 12% knew that it could cause encephalitis.
Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health, said: “Many young people feel that they are not in danger of catching measles, mumps and rubella, yet because older teenagers will be among those who were not routinely offered the MMR vaccination in childhood, we are seeing a high number of cases, particularly of mumps, within this age group.
“It is a concern that so many are unsure about whether they’ve been vaccinated and I would encourage them to seek advice from their practice nurse or GP.”