This fact box will help you to weigh the benefits and harms of the combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). The focus of this fact box is on mumps. The information and numbers are based on the best scientific evidence currently available.
This fact box was developed by the Harding Center for Risk Literacy.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection of the salivary glands. Besides the initial unspecific flu-like symptoms such as general discomfort, fever, headache, and aching limbs, the parotid glands below the ears typically painfully swell in the further course of the illness (commonly called “hamster face”). Direct contact with the saliva, e.g. via kissing or infected droplets (through an infected person coughing or sneezing), leads to an infection. Mumps is a typical childhood disease, even if the mean age at disease onset has increased throughout Europe .
The vaccination against mumps is usually administered as a combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella – hence the abbreviation MMR.
Infants aged 11 to 14 months receive the first dose of the combination vaccine as part of their basic immunization series. The second vaccination, generally scheduled for children aged 15 to 23 months, is a precautionary measure in case the first vaccination did not lead to the development of immunity. Furthermore, all adults born after 1970 who have not been vaccinated, who have been vaccinated just once, or whose vaccination status is unknown, may consider having a one-off combined MMR vaccination .
The fact box shows the benefits and harms of combined MMR vaccine for people without vaccination in their childhood compared to people with vaccination in case of exposure to the mumps virus.
The table may be read as follows:
If 10,000 people who had not been vaccinated against mumps were exposed to the mumps virus, 2,400 to 4,800 would be expected to contract mumps. In contrast, 72 to 912 of 10,000 people who had been vaccinated would contract mumps after exposure to the virus.
The numbers in the fact box are rounded. For the benefits, the numbers are based on model calculations. These calculate the probabilities of infections, symptomatic diseases, and frequencies of symptoms taking into consideration the effectiveness of the vaccine.
If 10,000 people who had not been vaccinated against mumps, whether as a child or an adult, came into contact with the virus, 120 to 240 of them would be expected to suffer from pancreatitis due to mumps and 1 person would be expected to die from mumps. In contrast, of 10,000 vaccinated people, 4 to 46 of them would suffer from pancreatitis after coming into contact with the virus. Between 0 and 1 of 10,000 vaccinated people would be expected to die from mumps.
If 10,000 adolescent or adult males who had not been vaccinated against mumps came into contact with the virus, 312 to 624 of them would be expected to suffer from testical inflammation due to mumps. In contrast, between 9 and 119 of 10,000 vaccinated males would be expected to suffer from testicle inflammation due to mumps after coming into contact with the virus.
If 10,000 women who had not been vaccinated against mumps came into contact with the virus, 360 to 720 of them would be expected to suffer from inflammation of the breast and 120 to 240 would suffer from oophoritis. In contrast, 11 to 137 of 10,000 vaccinated women would be expected to suffer from inflammation of the breast and between 4 and 46 women would be expected to suffer from oophoritis after coming into contact with the virus.
Allergic reactions to the MMR vaccine are very rare. Children with a severe allergy to eggs should be closely monitored after vaccination.
The fact box contains model calculations of the possible benefits and harms that may be expected after exposure to the mumps virus. The frequency of exposure to the virus depends on many factors, such as the opportunities for the rubella virus to spread and the proportion of vaccinated people. Widespread vaccination additionally provides protection for people who normally cannot be vaccinated (herd immunity). This population, which includes people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women, benefits from the slower spread of the virus.
The combined MMR vaccine protects against measles and rubella as well. The vaccine is also available in combination with chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus) as an MMR+V vaccine .
Overall the evidence is of moderate quality. On the one hand, the contagion indices (proportion of those exposed to the mumps virus who become infected) and manifestation indices (proportion of those infected by the mumps virus who are symptomatic) have not been researched with adequate randomized controlled trials. On the other hand, the degree of effectiveness of the vaccine has been validated across various populations with different study designs. Thus, there is at least evidence that symptoms of mumps are reduced among vaccinated people versus unvaccinated people.
- April 2016 (last update)
Information within the fact box was obtained from the following sources:
Data based on clinical practice are missing, e.g. information from textbooks and physicians on the prevalence (frequency) of the infection, the contagion and manifestation indices, and current patient studies.
Data based on clinical practice only partly correspond to the current vaccines and to the current health conditions of the German and Swiss populations [1-6].
The data on febrile seizure are based on two cohort studies with, respectively, 456,000 and 537,000 children aged 12 to 23 months. The vaccine contained the “Jeryl-Linn” strain of the virus.
The data on low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia) are based on a patient control study with 139 children aged 13 to 24 months.
 Demicheli V, Rivetti A, Debalini MG et al. Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;2:CD004407.
 Doerr HW, Gerlich WH. Medizinische Virologie: Grundlagen, Diagnostik, Prävention und Therapie viraler Erkrankungen. Georg Thieme 2010.
 Plotkin S, Orenstein W, Offit P. Vaccines. 6 ed: Saunders 2012.
 Robert Koch-Institut. RKI-Ratgeber für Ärzte: Mumps. 2013; www.rki.de/DE/Content/Infekt/EpidBull/Merkblaetter/Ratgeber_Mumps.html, Access date 22 Aug 2016.
 Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung. Impfen-Info 2015; www.impfen-info.de, Access date 22 Aug 2016.
 Friese K, Mylonas I, Schulze A (eds.). Infektionserkrankungen der Schwangeren und des Neugeborenen. Springer 2013.
 Quast U, Stück B. Deutsches Grünes Kreuz (ed.). Ärzte Merkblatt 2002.
 Quast U, Stück B. Deutsches Grünes Kreuz (ed.). Ärzte Merkblatt 2002.
 Black C, Kaye JA, Jick H. MMR vaccine and idiopathic thrombocytopaenic purpura. BJCP 2003;55(1):107-11.
 Patja A, Mäkinen-Kiljunen S, Davidkin I, et al. Allergic reactions to measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Pediatrics 2001;107(2):e27.
 Vestergaard M, Hviid A, Madsen KM et al. MMR vaccination and febrile seizures: evaluation of susceptible subgroups and long-term prognosis. JAMA 2004;292(3):351-7.
 Wilson K, Hawken S, Kwong JC et al. Adverse events following 12 and 18 month vaccinations: a population-based, self-controlled case series analysis. PLoS One 2011;6(12):e27897.
Documentation on how the numbers in the fact box were determined is available on request.