In general, you're considered immune to mumps if you've previously had the infection or if you've been immunized against mumps.

The mumps vaccine is usually given as a combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) inoculation, which contains the safest and most effective form of each vaccine. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended before a child enters school:

  • The first between ages 12 and 15 months
  • The second between ages 4 and 6 years, or between 11 and 12 if not previously given

In response to a mumps outbreak in the Midwest, college students and health care workers in particular are encouraged to make sure they've had two doses of the MMR vaccine. A single dose doesn't appear to offer sufficient protection during an outbreak. Since the recommendation for a second dose didn't begin until the late 1980s or early 1990s, many young adults may not have received their second dose and should have one now.

Those who don't need the MMR vaccine

You don't need a vaccine if you:

  • Had two doses of the MMR vaccine after 12 months of age or one dose of the MMR vaccine plus a second dose of measles vaccine
  • Had one dose of MMR and you're not at high risk of measles or mumps exposure
  • Have blood tests that demonstrate you're immune to measles, mumps and rubella
  • Are a man who was born before 1957
  • Are a woman who was born before 1957 and you don't plan to have any more children, you already had the rubella vaccine or you have a positive rubella test

Also, the vaccine isn't recommended for:

  • Pregnant women or women who plan to get pregnant within the next four weeks
  • People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
  • People with severely compromised immune systems, or people who take oral steroids, unless the benefits of the vaccine exceed the risks

Those who should get the MMR vaccine

If you don't fit the criteria listed above for not getting vaccinated, you should be vaccinated if you:

  • Are a nonpregnant woman of childbearing age
  • Attend college, trade school or postsecondary school
  • Work in a hospital, medical facility, child care center or school
  • Plan to travel overseas or take a cruise

Those who should wait to get the MMR vaccine

Consider waiting if:

  • You're moderately or severely ill. Wait until you recover.
  • You're pregnant. Wait until after you give birth.

Those who should check with their doctors

Check with your doctor before getting vaccinated for mumps if:

  • You have cancer
  • You have a blood disorder
  • You have a disease that affects your immune system, such as HIV/AIDS
  • You're being treated with drugs, such as steroids, that affect your immune system

Side effects of the vaccine

You can't get mumps from the MMR vaccine, and most people experience no side effects from the vaccine. A few may experience a mild fever or rash, and some people (mostly adults) have achy joints afterward for a short time. Less than one out of 1 million doses causes a serious allergic reaction.

Although concerns have been raised about a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, extensive reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that there's no scientifically proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Oct. 05, 2012