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Can the MMR vaccine prevent severe covid-19 complications? These American researchers sure think so

Published on:21 June 2020, 14:57pm IST
While the medical fraternity is still debating whether hydroxychloroquine can protect against covid-19, another contender has emerged: the MMR vaccine.
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Scientists believe that re-inoculation with the MMR vaccine can offer protection against covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Our search for a cure for covid-19, or at least an effective preventive measure, has led us far and wide. While scientists are testing hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, and steroids in the hopes of saving critically-ill covid-19 patients—major health organizations and pharma companies all over the world are competing with each other to launch the first vaccine.

And in this race, another contender has emerged: the MMR vaccine which is administered to infants to eliminate their chances of getting measles, mumps, and rubella.

What’s the link between MMR and covid-19?
According to researchers at Louisiana State University in the US, the MMR vaccine can serve as a preventive measure against severe complications of covid-19.

American researchers, whose findings were published in the journal mBio, claim that the MMR vaccine can help healthcare workers working at the covid-19 frontline safeguard themselves from the infection.

covid-19 vaccine
While the MMR vaccine might not make you covid-19 proof, researchers believe that it can lessen the severity of covid-19 complications. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

They believe that attenuated vaccines like the MMR vaccine, which contain a weakened form of the pathogen that causes the disease, not just prevents infections caused by that particular virus—but can also strengthen the body’s response to unrelated future infections like covid-19.

“In direct support of this concept, it was recently reported that the milder symptoms seen in the 955 sailors on the U.S.S. Roosevelt who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been a consequence of the fact that MMR vaccinations are given to all U.S. Navy recruits,” the scientists wrote in the study.

Also read: Tested positive for covid-19? Here’s what to do next according to a doctor

“A clinical trial with MMR in high-risk populations may provide a low-risk-high-reward preventive measure in saving lives during the covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Paul Fidel, Associate Dean for Research at Louisiana State University Health School of Dentistry.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt anybody to have an MMR vaccine that would protect against the measles, mumps, and rubella with this potential added benefit of helping against covid-19,” Fidel added.

So, are people who have already been inoculated as children immune to covid-19?
“Covid-19 has not had a big impact on children, and the researchers hypothesize that one reason children are protected against viral infections that induce sepsis is their more recent and more frequent exposures to live attenuated vaccines that can also induce the trained suppressive MDSCs that limit inflammation and sepsis,” explained the authors.

But when it came to adults who might have received their MMR vaccines decades ago, the researchers are still speculating whether they are likely to possess antibodies against the targeted viruses which at the very least would provide added protection against measles, mumps, and rubella for older adults.

The bottom line…
Whether or not the MMR vaccine can truly shield us from covid-19 needs scientific investigation, just like the authors of the study are calling for it.

Moreover, questions on whether or not childhood inoculation offers any protection to adults from SARS-CoV-2 need to be answered. Lastly, whether the MMR vaccine comes with any side effects upon a second dosage also needs to be studied before it becomes an acceptable standard of covid-19 prevention.

In the meantime, we need to keep our masks on and maintain social distancing.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS)

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