Common childhood vaccine could protect against COVID-19

ATLANTA — Researchers in Georgia say there’s growing evidence that a decades-old vaccine children take to ward off measles, mumps and rubella may also provide protection from getting COVID-19 or reduce the severity of the disease.

“The act of taking this vaccine may provide you with enough enhanced ability to mount a respiratory response to the agent coming in, so mitigates the disease,” said University of Georgia molecular biologist David Hurley.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus Pandemic in Georgia]

Hurley and principal investigator Jeff Gold say they recruited 80 people for their study on the MMR vaccine. Those with high levels of vaccine anti-bodies appeared nearly immune to the coronavirus from family members who tested positive for the virus.

“They were living with a husband or wife who had an active disease, but for whatever reason, they never tested positive themselves or contracted any symptoms,” said Gold.

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Gold said they saw further evidence of a reduced likelihood of severe COVID infections in populations with mass MMR inoculations, like the US military, where the vaccine is required. Out of 86,000 reported COVID cases, there were 13 deaths.

“What we have come up with is a lot of evidence that strengthens this association between the MMR vaccine and COVID-19,” said Gold

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According to Gold and Hurley, countries that have had mass MMR inoculations programs in recent years also have had relatively few COVID cases.

Both researchers are waiting for the results of a major clinical trial of the MMR vaccine on 30,000 health care workers to measure its disease fighting effectiveness against the coronavirus.