Campaign halted after allergic reactions reported

A provincewide campaign to vaccinate young people against the mumps has been put on hiatus because of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine.



Two people in the capital region and three others in Calgary developed severe reactions, including swelling, wheezing and shortness of breath. All five people had a history of allergies and have made full recoveries.


But the incidence of anaphylaxis was significantly higher than expected, leading officials to cancel the program while Health Canada investigates.

Dr. Karen Grimsrud, the province’s acting chief medical officer, said it’s highly unusual to see these kinds of reactions since it’s only impacting young adults.

"Is there something unique in that age group that will lead us to some information about the root cause? Until we know why we’re having a problem, I think we won’t be able to purchase large quantities of vaccine," she said.

The province launched its vaccination campaign in mid-November after a cluster of mumps cases appeared in post-secondary students in the Lethbridge area. As the outbreak continued to spread, students were sent home and even several college hockey games in Edmonton and Calgary were cancelled.

To date, more than 62,000 people have been vaccinated while 157 cases have been reported across the province. A secondary phase of vaccination for 17 to 26 year olds was planned for January. That program has also been scrapped.

"I am hopeful that the amount of vaccine that we’ve provided so far is going to be enough to curtail the outbreak in post-secondary institutions, which is really where we saw the majority of the cases," Grimsrud said. "Most students who wanted to be vaccinated have been vaccinated already."