Pre-existing Measles MMR vaccine may be effective against coronavirus

Countries where large portions of the population have received the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine reported much lower coronavirus deaths, suggesting that the MMR vaccine can be used to protect against COVID-19, a study by a data analyst found. The study also suggests that the “widely deployed measles-rubella containing vaccines (MRCV) are believed to be why children, teenagers and other young adults often have few symptoms from COVID-19 and few deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the young.” Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

“Countries with recent, major MRCV vaccination programs have few if any deaths from COVID-19,” the study says. Such countries include Madagascar, Hong Kong and South Korea. Madagascar had recently vaccinated 27.4 percent of its citizens with MRCV in 2019, on top of those who have already received the vaccine. According to the Johns Hopkins tally, only two out of the 527 confirmed coronavirus cases died in Madagascar. Hong Kong instituted a wide-ranging free-of-charge MMR vaccination program for all adult healthcare workers, airport staff and foreign domestic helpers, according to the study. This program was continued into 2020. Hong Kong reported four deaths out of 1,065 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. The study notes, Hong Kong reports a low number of confirmed cases and deaths, despite its proximity to the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese city of Wuhan.

South Korea had a huge outbreak of measles in the early 2000s and vaccinated its entire population. According to the Johns Hopkins tally, only 266 died out of 11,190 confirmed coronavirus cases there. In contrast, Belgium, the seventh highest country in number of COVID-19 deaths, with 9,280 fatalities out of 57,092 cases, didn’t offer MMR vaccinations until 1985, and didn’t give the recommended two doses per person until 1995, the study notes. The study suggests that lack of sufficient MRCV vaccination in Italy, one of the world’s most affected countries by coronavirus, may account for the high numbers of COVID-19 deaths there. Italy has the third highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, with 32,785 fatalities out of 229,858 confirmed cases.

In Iran, which has the highest number of reported coronavirus deaths in the Middle East, 33 million of its citizens were given the MRCV vaccination in 2003, but the study says: “the reason that program likely did not protect the population substantially from COVID-19 is that only one MRCV vaccination was given, while two at least 28 days apart are required for full effect.” “Many other countries which have MRCV programs reaching beyond young children are also seeing far fewer deaths as well as much slower death doubling rates than most other countries from COVID-19. Such countries include: Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Maldives, Libya, Djibouti, Republic of Georgia, El Salvador, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belarus, Armenia, Oman, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and Micronesia.”

Therefore, the study suggests using the MRCV vaccine against COVID-19. “A live measles vaccine has previously been considered in studies as a base for other Coronavirus vaccines including SARS; novel alphacoronaviruses and paramyxoviruses (the measles family) have been found to cocirculate; and MRCV have previously been shown to generally increase immunity against many unrelated viruses.” “There should be an immediate investigation of using the already available MMR vaccine in controlled studies to show a protective benefit. Epidemiologic studies suggest this may already be effective as a COVID-19 vaccine, and this could be instituted within months, perhaps saving thousands of lives with an earlier deployment than other vaccines under development.”