Could boosters for mumps be in our future?

Researchers suggest MMR vaccine could help protect against COVID-19 symptoms
Posted at 3:31 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 17:32:18-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Despite many people being immunized in childhood, outbreaks of mumps still occur. Since 2006, annual case numbers have varied, ranging from a few thousand cases to six thousand cases. Those numbers may sound high, but they’re still much lower than the 100,000+ cases the US dealt with back before the mumps vaccine was developed in the 1960s.

Now, this new study by University of Georgia scientists analyzed decades' worth of mumps data from the CDC and other sources. And what the researchers found was that waning immunity not only appeared to be behind the resurgence of mump cases. But they estimated that roughly one-third – 32.8% - who were vaccinated as children started to lose immunity around the age of 18. So that could explain why we often see more outbreaks among vaccinated college-age students.

Does that mean the MMR vaccine is not strong and adults should get boosters? 

The answer to both those questions is no. The CDC concluded that boosters should only be used in specific situations, for example, if there’s an outbreak on a university campus.

Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus. It spreads through direct contact with saliva or respiratory droplets from the mouth, nose, or throat. And it spreads more easily in settings where people have close, prolonged contact. Mumps can cause symptoms like fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. It’s best known for causing puffy cheeks, which is driven by swelling of the salivary glands. Mumps can be very serious and cause brain inflammation, pancreatitis, miscarriage, and hearing loss.

That’s why it’s important to get the MMR vaccine. It protects against three diseases - measles, mumps, and rubella.

Children routinely get two doses which cut the risk of measles or rubella by about 97% and the mumps risk by 88% compared to the unvaccinated.

So while there may be waning immunity, those who get the two doses still have good protection from getting very ill. So I urge parents to get their children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.