by Joseph Mercola, DO
In 1986, public health officials stated that MMR vaccination rates for kindergarten children were in excess of 95 percent and that one dose of live attenuated measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) would eliminate the three common childhood diseases in the U.S.1 In 1989, parents were informed that a single dose of MMR vaccine was inadequate for providing lifelong protection against these common childhood diseases and that children would need to get a second dose of MMR.2
In some states, the MMR vaccination rate is approaching 100 percent.5 Despite achieving the sought-for MMR vaccination rate for more than three decades, which theoretically should ensure “herd immunity,” outbreaks of both measles and mumps keep occurring—and many of those who get sick are children and adults who have been vaccinated.
Mumps is Making a Comeback
As recently reported by Science Magazine6 and The New York Times,7 mumps is making a strong comeback among college students, with hundreds of outbreaks occurring on U.S. campuses over the past two decades. Last summer, the Minnesota Department of Health reported its largest mumps outbreak since 2006.8
According to recent research,9 the reason for this appears to be, at least in part, waning vaccine-acquired immunity. In other words, protection from the MMR vaccine is wearing off quicker than expected. Science Magazine writes:
[Epidemiologist Joseph Lewnard and immunologist Yonatan Grad, both at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston] compiled data from six previous studies of the vaccine’s effectiveness carried out in the United States and Europe between 1967 and 2008. (None of the studies is part of a current fraudulent claims lawsuit against U.S. vaccine maker Merck.)
Based on these data, they estimated that immunity to mumps lasts about 16 to 50 years, or about 27 years on average. That means as much as 25 percent of a vaccinated population can lose immunity within eight years, and half can lose it within 19 years … The team then built mathematical models using the same data to assess how declining immunity might affect the susceptibility of the U.S. population.
When they ran the models, their findings lined up with reality. For instance, the model predicted that 10- to 19-year-olds who had received a single dose of the mumps vaccine at 12 months were more susceptible to infection; indeed, outbreaks in those age groups happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added a second dose of the vaccine at age 4 to 6 years. Outbreaks then shifted to the college age group.
A Third Booster Shot May Be Added
According to public health officials, the proposed solution to boosting vaccine-acquired mumps immunity in the U.S. population is to add a third booster shot of MMR vaccine at age 18.
Unfortunately, adding a booster for mumps means giving an additional dose of measles and rubella vaccines as well, as the three are only available in the combined MMR vaccine or combined MMR-varicella (MMRV) vaccine. At present, a third MMR shot is routinely recommended during active mumps outbreaks, even though there is no solid proof that this strategy is effective.