There’s a lot of talk about mumps lately. With several reported outbreaks this year and recent cases turning up in Texas, the media is all a-buzz with breaking-news headlines and maps pinpointing where cases are suspected – tactics used to create grave concern. Clearly the media’s message is that some people having mumps is newsworthy because it’s… THE MUMPS! The media also uses this opportunity to suggest that people who exercise vaccine exemptions (this includes people opting out of or delaying even one of the CDC’s 72 doses of vaccines in childhood) are somehow to blame for people getting mumps. Of course, the global answer to it all is always more vaccines.
It’s important to note that people having mumps is not newsworthy based on it being a scary, dangerous disease, as these reports would have us believe. There are mumps cases every year. The reported cases vary from several hundred to several thousand each year, but since the CDC itself acknowledges that mumps is not even a ‘reportable’ illness, no one is tracking hard numbers. We really don’t know what the trend is or when to declare the number of cases reported as excessive. Additionally, the CDC considers most mumps infections to be benign, with folks making a full recovery, and even acknowledges that many will be asymptomatic and fully recover, having never even known they had the illness.
So if the simple fact that some people are getting sick is not newsworthy, what about mumps is? Well, how about the fact that the vaccine is failing to protect people? I mean, if you’re going to report mumps outbreaks as a headlining news story, and allude to folks who skip even one of the CDC’s vaccines as somehow being part of the problem, isn’t it only responsible to report that the vast majority of the folks getting sick have been fully vaccinated against mumps? Outbreak details can be found here, here, here, and here. When you apply critical thinking (or even a little bit of common sense) to this scenario, you realize that blaming the small percentage of people who opted out of a vaccine for the fact that said vaccine has failed to protect the many who did receive it (when the alternatively-vaccinated are not even the ones getting sick in the first place), is simply ludicrous.
It’s also extremely newsworthy (though it’s getting very little news coverage) that Merck, the maker of the mumps vaccine, is currently engaged in a whistleblower lawsuit where two of its own scientists sued the pharmaceutical giant for falsifying efficacy data for the mumps vaccine. While the idea of Merck falsifying data is not new (Anyone remember Vioxx??), vaccine failure is also well-documented in the medical literature. Wouldn’t you think any news organization would find THAT to be the compelling story, the fact that the sole mumps vaccine patent holder is being accused of lying about its vaccine’s efficacy while fully vaccinated folks are coming down with the mumps?! But, alas, if that were the story, then the answer certainly couldn’t be to just give more people more mumps vaccines. And clearly, to keep the biggest advertiser in media history happy, that’s what the answer needs to be.
One final newsworthy fact that never seems to make the narrative is that the extremely rare complications of the mumps illness that are used to create fear in folks and coerce vaccination (deafness, encephalitis, meningitis) are all listed as possible side effects of the MMR II vaccine on Merck’s package insert. Let that sink in. The very risks they use to scare people about the disease are known, acknowledged risks of the vaccine itself – risks that are not shared with patients prior to consent and risks that are not even considered newsworthy by the media.
So as you continue to hear the reports of mumps cases, consider what you’re not hearing and whether or not there’s significantly more to the story. Then do your research and be fully informed so you can make educated decisions for you and your family.