Mumps immunization is safe and extremely effective in preventing the onset of the mumps virus in young children. Since the first mumps immunization became available in 1967, hundreds of millions of doses have been administered, with an excellent safety record. The vaccine is strongly recommended by several leading medical groups, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also, there is no scientific evidence that the mumps immunization or any other popular immunization for childhood illnesses such as measles, rubella or chicken pox, cause autism.
The mumps immunization is often combined with other vaccines and given as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first dose of MMR is usually administered to infants who are 12-16 months old. This first dosage of the MMR immunization has been found to provide a 97 percent immunity to mumps, a 95 to 98 percent immunity to measles and a 95 percent immunity to rubella. The second dosage is usually administered in school-age children between 4-6 years of age. This second dose is intended to provide immunity for those children who did not respond to the first dose.
Generally, the side effects to the MMR vaccine are mild. Many children might feel a soreness in the area where the shot is given, and the soreness might last for a few hours. Fever is another common side effect, and it occurs in roughly 5-15 percent of all recipients. A mild rash can also affect about 5 percent of patients. These side effects usually surface about seven to 12 days after the immunization is given. More severe reactions, including allergic reactions, are very rare.
Prior to the introduction of the mumps vaccine in 1967, the mumps virus was a common childhood illness that featured swelling of the salivary glands or glands behind the ears. Many cases were mild but some mumps infections could lead to meningitis, which is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Complications of meningitis can cause permanent deafness. These risks far outweigh the mild side effects of mumps immunization with the MMR vaccine.
Suspicions that the MMR vaccine caused autism first arose in 1998 with the publication of a paper by Andrew Wakefield citing a study of 12 British children who displayed symptoms of autism after being treated with the MMR immunization. The paper was quickly discredited as false. Since its publication, several studies have shown no link between rise of autism rates and the use of the MMR vaccine.