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After decades of declining mumps incidence amid widespread vaccination, the United States and other developed countries have experienced a resurgence in mumps cases over the last decade. Outbreaks affecting vaccinated individuals and communities with high vaccine coverage have prompted concerns about the effectiveness of the live attenuated vaccine currently in use. It is unclear whether immune protection wanes or whether the vaccine protects inadequately against currently circulating mumps virus lineages. Synthesizing data from six studies of mumps vaccine effectiveness, we estimated that vaccine-derived immune protection against mumps wanes on average 27 years (95% confidence interval, 16 to 51 years) after vaccination. After accounting for this waning, we found no evidence that the emergence of heterologous virus genotypes contributed to changes in vaccine effectiveness over time. A mathematical model of mumps transmission confirmed the central role of waning immunity to the vaccine in the re-emergence of mumps cases. Outbreaks from 2006 to the present among young adults, and outbreaks in the late 1980s and early 1990s among adolescents, aligned with peaks in mumps susceptibility of these age groups predicted to be due to loss of vaccine-derived protection. In contrast, evolution of mumps virus strains escaping immune pressure would be expected to cause a higher proportion of cases among children, not adolescents and young adults as observed. Routine use of a third vaccine dose at 18 years of age, or booster dosing throughout adulthood, may be a strategy to prevent mumps re-emergence and should be assessed in clinical trials.