Part 2- Why We Declined the MMR Vaccine (Mumps)

MMR is a combined vaccine that is used to protect against measles, mumps and rubella recommended in the United States for children at least 12 months old and again between ages 4 and 6 years, although the second dose can be given anytime 28 days following the first dose.

The vaccine can’t be separated in the United States for any age group- if you want to get vaccinated against one, you must get vaccinated against them all.

We know when there are measles outbreaks each year… the media doesn’t let us forget it. But what about mumps?

There are hundreds, and frequently thousands of mumps cases reported in the U.S. every year.

It’s not because less people are getting vaccinated against mumps than against measles… Remember, you can’t separate the mumps vaccine. If you’re vaccinated against measles, you’re vaccinated against mumps.

So why does the media love to make a big deal about measles when mumps rarely gets a second glance? Is it because mumps is perceived as being less dangerous than measles?

While measles is more contagious than mumps, neither are necessarily more or less dangerous than the other. In fact mumps comes with a host of complications that, while incredibly rare, are scary sounding enough to get people’s attention.

So why the panic when we hear the word “measles”?

Why We Declined the MMR Vaccine (Part 1- Measles) can be read HERE.

Why We Declined the Mumps Vaccine

1. Mumps Outbreaks Are Not Caused By the Unvaccinated

Perhaps the real reason that measles gets more attention than mumps is that one hundred cases of measles can be easily explained away. It’s convenient to blame parents and their unvaccinated children on an outbreak that consists of an average of only 60-100 or so cases. It’s easy to say, “measles cases have doubled” when rates go from 60 one year to 120 the next, even though when we look back over the past decade or two we see that low years of measles followed by years with higher numbers of outbreaks is typical of measles even in vaccinated populations.

In 2006 there were 55 cases of measles reported. That’s a low enough number to brush aside or place on the shoulders of the few parents opting out of the vaccine for their children. But that same year, there were 6,339 cases of mumps in a population that was 92% vaccinated.

Even though 2006 was a particularly bad year for mumps outbreaks, it isn’t unusual to see cases of mumps rise into the thousands in a year- not so easy to blame on the small percentage of unvaccinated people.

Mumps trends: 2000-2014

Mumps trends: 2000-2014

If the unvaccinated are to blame for mumps outbreaks, how can there be 6,339 cases of mumps in a population that is vaccinated the exact same amount for both diseases?

Perhaps it’s time to stop blaming the unvaccinated and look again at the theory of herd immunity and how our vaccines are failing us.

Could it be, perhaps, that if people found out the true number of mumps every year, despite high vaccination rates, they might stop pointing fingers at the unvaccinated and start to question the efficacy of the vaccine?

2. Complications From Mumps Are Rare

Mumps is a self-limiting virus, which means it usually runs its course and goes away on its own in about 10 days without the need of medical treatment.

WebMD explains the symptoms of mumps as:

Symptoms may include:
* Swelling and pain in the jaw. One or both cheeks may look swollen.
* Fever.
* Headache, earache, sore throat, and pain when you swallow or open your mouth.
* Pain when you eat sour foods or drink sour liquids, such as citrus fruit or juice.
* Tiredness, with aching in the muscles and joints.
* Poor appetite and vomiting.
It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to get symptoms after you have been exposed to the virus. This is called the incubation period. Some people who are infected with the mumps virus don’t have any symptoms.
If you have more serious symptoms, such as a stiff neck or a severe headache, painful testicles, or severe belly pain, call your doctor right away.

A rash may occur with mumps, though not commonly.

20% of mumps cases are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms at all but the infected person goes on to develop lifelong immunity. Another 40-50% of mumps cases cause non-specific symptoms (such as body aches) or respiratory symptoms similar to that of a cold or the flu.

About 20% of those affected with mumps will develop parotitis, which is inflammation of the salivary glands on one or both sides of the face. It usually goes away on its own when the mumps virus has run its course.

Encephalitis (brain inflammation) with mumps is rare, occurring in less than 1-2 out of every 100,000 cases.

Deafness can occur unilaterally (on one side) in 1 out of every 20,000 reported cases of mumps. Severe, bilateral deafness (both ears) is extremely rare.

Complications with mumps are more common in adults than in children. Males past the age of puberty can develop testicular inflammation, known as orchitis. Very rarely it can develop in both testicles and impair fertility, but this is extremely unlikely. Females can also experience ovarian inflammation (oophoritis) but it does not impair fertility.

3. The Mumps Vaccine Can Cause the Same Complications as the Mumps Virus 

While complications from mumps are unlikely, they can be scary when they happen. However, the same complications caused by mumps have been reported following vaccination for mumps including the more serious complications such as parotitis, encephalitis, deafness (within 2 months of vaccination), and orchitis.

4. Serious Adverse Reactions Have Been Reported Following the Mumps Vaccine

The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) has reported 68,908 adverse reactions following mumps vaccination. 7,042 of those were serious and 343 patients have died following vaccination.

It is estimated that adverse events reported to VAERS only accounts for 5% to 10% of the true rates of reactions. According to the FDA:

Although the FDA receives many adverse event reports, these probably represent only a fraction of the serious adverse events encountered by providers. A recent review article found that between 3% and 11% of hospital admission could be attributed to adverse drug reactions. Only about 1% of serious events are reported to the FDA, according to one study.

The mumps vaccine insert (MMR-II) lists the following possible reactions:

Body as a Whole
Panniculitis; atypical measles; fever; syncope; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability

Cardiovascular System

Digestive System
Pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; parotitis; nausea

Endocrine System
Diabetes mellitus

Hemic and Lymphatic System
Thrombocytopenia; purpura; regional lymphadenopathy

Immune System
Anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions have been reported as well as related phenomena such as angioneurotic edema (including peripheral or facial edema) and bronchial spasm in individuals with or without an allergic history.

Musculoskeletal System
arthritis; arthralgia; myalgia

Nervous System
encephalitis; encephalopathy; measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE); subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE); Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS); acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM); febrile convulsions; afebrile convulsions or seizures; ataxia; polyneuritis; polyneuropathy; ocular palsies; paresthesia

Respiratory System
pneumonia; pneumonitis; sore throat; cough; rhinitis

Stevens-Johnson syndrome; erythema multiforme; urticaria; rash; measles-like rash; pruritis
Local reactions including burning/stinging at injection site; wheal and flare; redness (erythema); swelling; induration; tenderness; vesiculation at injection site.

Special Senses — Ear
nerve deafness; otitis media

Special Senses — Eye
retinitis; optic neuritis; papillitis; retrobulbar neuritis; conjunctivitis

Urogenital System
epididymitis; orchitis


5. Mumps Efficacy Is Poor

According to a study published in the Oxford Journal, the mumps strain used in vaccines in the United States shows an efficacy of about 95%, meaning it protects against disease about 95% of the time- but this efficacy rate drops to as low as 62% during outbreaks.

In 2010 a lawsuit was filed against Merck (the maker of the mumps vaccine) stating that they had lied about the efficacy of the mumps vaccine being 95% or higher. The lawsuit, filed by two former Merck virologists, states:

They witnessed firsthand the improper testing and data falsification in which Merck engaged to artificially inflate the vaccine’s efficacy findings. In fact, they were pressured by their Merck superiors and senior Merck management to participate in the fraud and subsequent cover-up.

The lawsuit goes on to state:

As a result of Merck’s fradulent scheme, the United States has over the last decade paid Merck hundreds of millions of dollars for a vaccine that does not provide adequate immunization.

Further down it says:

And while this is a disease that, according to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), was supposed to be eradicated by now, the failure in Merck’s vaccine has allowed this disease to linger with significant outbreaks continuing to occur.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Merck tested the vaccine against the efficacy of the disease strain found in their own vaccine, NOT against wild strains of mumps virus that children would face in real life. Against the vaccine strain, the vaccine only yielded an efficacy of 79.5% and Merck needed an efficacy of 95% or higher to be approved by the FDA. Essentially, the lawsuit claims that Merck added antibodies from rabbits and mixed them with the human antibodies, which boosted the overall antibody level to an acceptable efficacy rate.

The lawsuit claims that all of this was done with the knowledge of Merck’s senior management and that the employees were told that the falsification of the efficacy of the mumps vaccine was a “business decision”.

Another lawsuit against Merck was filed in 2012.

Merck continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Claims aside, it is no secret that the mumps vaccine struggles with efficacy problems. The first combined MMR vaccine was introduced in 1971. A second dose of the MMR vaccine was added to the schedule in 1989 when it was decided that one dose of the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella did not provide enough protection. With outbreaks continuing despite high vaccination rates, some think a third dose will be added to the schedule soon.

Particularly with mumps, it has been shown that in cases of close contact with others (such as in a schools or colleges) in a highly vaccinated population, the mumps virus can overwhelm the vaccine.

In 2012, the FDA stated:

The scientists (from the FDA) concluded that these outbreaks reflect a progressively weakening immune response to mumps viruses that occurs over the years following childhood vaccination. Notably, recent outbreaks have targeted predominately young adults.

So even with two doses, the vaccine is still only lasting 5-10 years (assuming that children are vaccinated with the second dose on schedule between the ages of 4 and 6). This means that immunity is waning at an age when complications with mumps increase- after puberty.

Since 1967 (when the mumps vaccine was licensed), mumps has shifted from the age group in which it is the safest (childhood) to the age group that has the highest risk of complications: post-pubertal adults.

6. Mumps Outbreaks Occur in Highly Vaccinated Populations

In 2006, an outbreak of mumps affected 174 students at a university in Kansas. Of those who got sick, 99% (172/174) were vaccinated with 2 doses of MMR. Two-dose mumps vaccination coverage in similar outbreaks in the U.S. in 2006 ranged from 79% to 99% coverage.

An outbreak from 2009- 2010 affected 3,502 people in New York City, mostly in the Orthodox Jewish community. 97% of the case studies had been previously vaccinated (89% with two doses of the mumps vaccine and 8% with one dose of the mumps vaccine).

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2008 noted that despite a second dose of the mumps vaccine (MMR) added in 1990, the year 2006 showed the largest outbreak of mumps in over two decades, which it notes as 6,584 cases.

The study goes on to say:

For the 12 years preceding the outbreak, national coverage of one-dose mumps vaccination among preschoolers was 89% or more nationwide and 86% or more in highly affected states. In 2006, the national two-dose coverage among adolescents was 87%, the highest in U.S. history.

The conclusion of the study:

Despite a high coverage rate with two doses of mumps-containing vaccine, a large mumps outbreak occurred, characterized by two-dose vaccine failure, particularly among midwestern college-age adults who probably received the second dose as schoolchildren. A more effective mumps vaccine or changes in vaccine policy may be needed to avert future outbreaks and achieve the elimination of mumps.

It seems as though herd immunity (which was only ever intended to apply to natural diseases when 68% of the population was immune) may never be achievable for our current mumps vaccine.

herd immunity

After looking closer at the history, safety and efficacy of the mumps vaccine, it calls into question the reasons behind why we even continue to blindly put our faith in a failing vaccine.


*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice. These opinions are my personal opinions.



7 thoughts on “Part 2- Why We Declined the MMR Vaccine (Mumps)

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  3. My daughter had a reaction to the MMR vaccine at 15 months and lost her hearing. It left her with profound nerve deafness. Wish I would have known the risks back then.


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