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An interesting hypothesis, but no definitive proof yet about the MMR vaccine and COVID-19

Thursday, Feb 4, 2021

* I see little chance of myself being vaccinated anytime soon, considering my age and the international shortage, etc. But a very informed pal of mine has been sending me some studies and articles lately that piqued my interest. The first thing he sent me was a small study from the American Society for Microbiology

The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has been theorized to provide protection against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Our aim was to determine whether any MMR IgG titers are inversely correlated with severity in recovered COVID-19 patients previously vaccinated with MMR II. […]

Hence, while our study provided clear evidence linking mumps seropositivity to COVID-19 severity, we do not dismiss the possibility that there are links between measles or rubella seropositivity that have not yet been identified. […]

While the associations that we have observed between MMR II and COVID-19 do not prove causation, the significant associations lend further support to the theory that the MMR II vaccine may provide long-term, cross-protective immunity against COVID-19.

* Some news coverage

One notable example of the difference in death rates and MMR vaccination efforts in Venezuela. The country recently gained control of a large measles outbreak through a country-wide vaccination campaign geared toward nine million children between 6 months to 15 years.3

Gold says that delivering 13 million doses of the MMR vaccine was unmatched with vaccination efforts in neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil. By 2019, Venezuela had reduced the number of deaths by 91%—reporting only 548 cases and three deaths.

Gold noticed that increased MMR vaccination appeared to be associated with decreased COVID-19 deaths. “Venezuela has had only 39 deaths per million from COVID-19,” he says. “On the other hand, its immediate neighbors Colombia and Brazil have each had 957 deaths per million and 986 deaths per million respectively.”

The US deaths per million is 1,366. Venezuela has more than twice the population of Illinois and just 1,209 deaths. Illinois has reported 19,444 deaths. But, Venezuela is a bizarre country, so I’m not sure I trust its numbers. Still, if that’s even close to accurate, it’s worth a look.

* Many have noted that children don’t seem to suffer from the COVID virus nearly as much as adults. The theory is the MMR vaccine might possibly play a role in this, since most kids get that shot

In March 2020, Jeffrey E. Gold, a data analyst, thought it was interesting that children were relatively spared from severe COVID-19 disease. He wondered whether a specific intervention, like vaccination, protected them, whereas the COVID-19 death rate climbs quickly for people over the age of 50. CDC statistics reveal 97% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in those aged 45 and older. The timing of one vaccine in particular, the MMR vaccine — against measles, mumps, and rubella — seemed to best fit the bill. First introduced in 1971, most recipients fall into the under 50 age group.

Looking deeper, Gold found that a number of countries with low COVID-19 death rates had conducted large-scale measles-rubella vaccination campaigns over the last few years. For instance, physicians in American Samoa vaccinated nearly 90% of the population with MMR, including children and adults, during a widespread measles outbreak in September 2019. American Samoa has seen just 3 cases of COVID-19 — all contracted outside the country — and no deaths from the virus. As a comparison, COVID-19 penetration seemed far more extensive in countries with lower MMR vaccination rates, like Italy. Due to public mistrust in vaccines, following the publication of Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent research linking the MMR vaccine and autism in 1998, Italy’s measles vaccine coverage was one of the lowest in Europe.

It’s important to note these associations might just be coincidental.

But then there is this. Like SARS-CoV-2, measles, mumps and rubella viruses are also RNA viruses with spike proteins. The spike proteins on the measles, mumps and rubella viruses share 30% of their protein structure with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The reason I am telling you this is because the degree of similarity might cause the body to “think” COVID-19 is related to measles, mumps, or rubella virus and therefore, fight it pre-emptively.

* So, should adults get the MMR shot?

The study’s findings fall short of recommending adult booster shots. Gold stresses that more clinical trials need to be completed and show successful results. There is currently a clinical trial to see if the MMR vaccine can prevent COVID-19 in 30,000 healthcare workers who are at high risk of repeated exposure to the virus.

Jeffrey Gold is a data person, not a doctor. Just remember that.

* But here’s the Mayo Clinic

“So, with that as our basis and understanding, we did a similar analysis here with our Mayo Clinic data. What we did is we compared the rates of test positivity for COVID between those who’ve had vaccines and those who haven’t had vaccines and stratified that according to vaccine type,” explained [Andrew Badley, the Chair of the Mayo Clinic COVID Research Task Force].

What they found was that specifically, the MMR vaccines–which protects against measles mumps and rubella, as well as the flu vaccine and several others–had a protective effect against getting COVID-19. As for further implications for what this research could mean when it comes to COVID-19, Badley said, “certainly there will be numerous studies looking at all of the things we’ve talked about in the future, including the immune response.”

Some further research on the MMR vaccine and COVID-19 has prompted hypotheses that the reason many children aren’t more susceptible to COVID-19 is because they’ve had their vaccines more recently than adults. The Mayo Clinic says there’s no definitive answer as to whether that’s true.


“Should you rush out and get extra vaccines? No, not at all. You should rush out and see your healthcare provider and update your health maintenance and if that means you are not updated on your flu or MMR, you should get it,” said Badley.

* National Center for Biotechnology Information

After analyzing the results, we saw that there were no significant differences between the rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection for any of the vaccines. However, we did find statistically significant differences with respect to the severity of COVID-19 and the MMR vaccination status (p = 0.013). The MMR vaccine has been administered on a mandatory basis to all Spanish children in the context of the national vaccination program since 1981. In our study, most of the physicians infected with SARS-CoV-2 who had received the MMR vaccine (67.92%) presented with mild symptoms of COVID-19. None of those who had to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 remembered having received the MMR vaccine or having been immunized against any of the viruses included in this vaccine. No significant differences were observed with respect to the severity of COVID-19 and the BCG and hepatitis B vaccination status (p = 0.608 and 0.911, respectively).

Some hypotheses link vaccination against MMR with an improved and faster innate immune response against COVID-19. This fact could explain the benign course of the disease in children and those under the age of 40 in our country. Other studies state that the MMR vaccine can induce neutralizing antibodies that cross-react with other viruses. Cases have been described in which patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 generate cross-neutralizing antibodies against MMR.

The most remarkable limitations of this study are the low number of critically ill patients included in it and the fact that other risk factors were not analyzed in a multivariant analysis, as this was not the purpose of our research. With the publication of these results, we aim to draw the attention of the health authorities and research centers with a view for them to promote studies that will allow to confirm the existence of an association between MMR vaccination and a lesser severity of COVID-19. Until a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is developed, we believe that it is justifiable to promote new studies and clinical trials that might clarify the role of trained immunity with other vaccines in the mitigation of the severity of COVID-19 and of foreseeable future pandemics caused by other coronaviruses.

* However, unlike a lot of the crazy treatments touted by COVID conspiracy theorists, the CDC says MMR revaccination is not unsafe

However, if revaccination is requested, there is no immunologic or safety reason to deny the request.

And back to that study from the top of the post, here’s coauthor David J. Hurley, PhD, professor and molecular microbiologist at the University of Georgia

“The MMR II vaccine is considered a safe vaccine with very few side effects. If it has the ultimate benefit of preventing infection from COVID-19, preventing the spread of COVID-19, reducing the severity of it, or a combination of any or all of those, it is a very high reward low risk ratio intervention. Maximum seropositivity is achieved through two vaccinations at least 28 days apart. Based upon our study, it would be prudent to vaccinate those over 40 regardless of whether or not they already have high serum MMR titers.”

Maybe, or maybe not, but what the heck. I called Walgreens yesterday and was told by the pharmacist that I can just walk right in and get an MMR vaccine without an appointment. It won’t hurt me, and if I do get the shot I’m not going to change my life or anything. It’ll just be an added precaution while I wait for the real thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - JB13 - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 2:50 pm:

    Very fascinating. And answers so many questions.

    Thank you for sharing this one.

    Science, for the win.

  2. - Hot Taeks - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 2:54 pm:

    What if you got the measles vaccine when you were 1 and 5 years old respectively?

  3. - Rachel - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 2:59 pm:

    You are asked when you go for the Covid injection if you have had any other vaccines in the past 90 days. I don’t know if having any will keep you from getting the injection.

  4. - SSL - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:04 pm:

    This is very interesting information. Unfortunately if I asked my doctor I don’t think he would help me make a decision. If something isn’t approved as the standard of care, it seems most doctors are averse to talking about it for fear of repercussions. I get it, but it feels like we’re out there on our own sometimes.

  5. - Moe Berg - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:08 pm:

    Thank you for posting this workup, Rich. Very interesting and worthwhile.

  6. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:10 pm:

    So it is the vaccine that may help but not the actual diseases? Many older people myself included has all three diseases when we were kids so evidently having the disease does not convey immunity. Especially as old people suffer the most and they are ones that probably had diseases but not vaccinated for them.

  7. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:24 pm:

    Due to local outbreaks of whooping cough, we were advised to get a MMR vaccine update to protect our first grandchild when she was born. Nice to know it may have an added side benefit.

  8. - Bebe - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:30 pm:

    Just be conscious of the timing if you decide to update your MMR vaccine. From the CDC FAQs:

    Wait at least 14 days before getting any other vaccine, including a flu or shingles vaccine, if you get your COVID-19 vaccine first. And if you get another vaccine first, wait at least 14 days before getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

    If a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given within 14 days of another vaccine, you do not need to restart the COVID-19 vaccine series; you should still complete the series on schedule. When more data are available on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, CDC may update this recommendation.

  9. - zatoichi - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:33 pm:

    This the kind data research that only comes with time, good databases, and people who understand the interacting details. Trying out new ideas, finding non-obvious connections, and then having the results duped by other proferssionals is what science does.

  10. - Benjamin - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:37 pm:

    Interesting. I’m sure the scientists will know more in a few months. Maybe we can speed up our return to normal if we have a better idea of who’s vulnerable and who isn’t.

    But it’s good to know that, unlike hydroxychloroquine, there’s basically no downside to the treatment. You should be getting to getting a flu shot and an MMR booster anyhow, pandemic or not.

  11. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:37 pm:

    I’ve been following this exact same thing for a month or two. I’ve been debating on following through… Maybe now is the time time to pull the trigger.

  12. - Peters Piece - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:46 pm:

    Went for routine visit in November. My doctor asked when I had last MMR booster and of course I did not know. He said booster is recommended for adults. I said okay and rolled up my sleeve. Never told about these papers but actually now more impressed by my care.

  13. - Phineas Gurley - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:52 pm:

    A college classmate surgeon who has been essentially sidelined as his region is overwhelmed with Covid cases has been working instead on what he says is a very successful THC-based treatment — so successful that he is declining the vaccine.

    Just sayin’, a little extra cannabis might boost the MMR.

  14. - Shy Lurker - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 3:59 pm:

    According to a nurse friend and verified on the Google, many vaccines should be given 28 days apart because of the risk of reduced immune response. and some should not be given together on the same day. Had seen some articles on MMR vaccine possibly helping to reduce the severity of covid last summer, but thank you for pulling together the info from substantial peer-reviewed publications Rich.

  15. - JoanP - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 4:04 pm:

    Fascinating stuff. Ain’t science grand?

  16. - Stormsw7706 - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 4:05 pm:

    Well done Rich. I’m
    Like some of your other commentators wondering about timelines between getting an MMR and eligibility for an initial COVID shot

  17. - Wensicia - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 4:28 pm:

    It’s possible that MMR vaccines may keep children safer from severe COVID infections, but these children are still capable of carrying and spreading the virus.

  18. - Groucho - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 4:41 pm:

    Thanks for posting

  19. - Stormsw7706 - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 4:41 pm:

    My mother in law just had her first shot at HYVEE Springfield. Her consent form asked if she had any vaccines in the past 14 days. People my want to look at the online consent forms to formulate their timelines if they decide to pursue an MMR. It is also noteworthy that adult MMR boosters are recommended

  20. - bob - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 4:45 pm:

    Got my shot this afternoon at Tinley Park. I would like to use this forum to thank the Illinois National Guard who service the facility.

  21. - Hack in the Back - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 5:03 pm:

    Already had first Covid shot, but passing this along. Very intriguing, especially for youngsters. Maybe kids won’t even need Covid vaccine.

  22. - Stormsw7706 - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 5:17 pm:

    Rich CDC says no vaccines 14 days prior to a COVID shot. Seems like a pretty good timeline for those under 65. Thanks for your reporting in this

  23. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 5:43 pm:

    >So it is the vaccine that may help but not the actual diseases?

    I don’t think that’s justified, though I understand why you drew that inference. If you read the study, it’s mostly mumps antibodies that have an impact, but the study’s group of those who actually had “the disease” would have had any of the three - mumps, measles or rubella - so the effect of mumps antibodies could be lost in the statistical noise in that group.

  24. - Ryan - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 5:43 pm:

    (Didn’t mean to be anonymous when I posted above.)

  25. - Anotherretiree - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 5:43 pm:

    Somewhere I read a Russian Dr. who had noted reduced infections in general after polio vaccine . Theory was a vaccine revved up immune system for a short time.

  26. - Thyrnn - Thursday, Feb 4, 21 @ 9:50 pm:

    Read about this when the first study came out. Family had an already paid for vacation at Xmas to Universal themepark in Florida with the adult kids. Talked the wife into getting the MMR with me two weeks before the trip. Five days and contact with thousands and thousands of people and we didn’t catch a thing.

  27. - Saluki 1964 - Friday, Feb 5, 21 @ 9:10 am:

    Most adults probably need an MMR booster. I had the normal shots when a baby/toddler and had a booster when I was 12 (1974). When I was pregnant (2003) they tested my immunities for some reason. Found I was not immune to measles. Can’t give it to a pregnant woman but as soon as the baby was born they were right in there and gave me the booster. You can ask to be tested with your doctor.

  28. - bobbo - Friday, Feb 5, 21 @ 1:36 pm:

    as to whether having had mumps, measles as a child will, the titers of antibodies go down, believe 9% a yr..that is hypothesized as why young children gain protection but high schoolers and above don’t. I got a booster in the the summer and sent an email to Gold..he thought that was enough as I had these illnesses as a kid. He also thought being up to date with pneumonia vaccines was a good idea..there are other articles on line citing other countries and the correlation. Also a US Naval vessel with a lot of positivity upon testing but little or no death ..and one observation study from Mexico..siting low level or no serious illness as compared to Countries norm…

  29. - bobbo - Friday, Feb 5, 21 @ 1:39 pm:

    search online for mmr covid for more info..

  30. - likes to read - Friday, Feb 5, 21 @ 2:11 pm:

    dear dance band on the titanic the MMR vaccine does not cover you for pertussis or as some people call it whooping cough that is the TDap vaccine so hopefully you received the correct one? double check & you can always request the MMR vaccine now

  31. - bobbo - Friday, Feb 5, 21 @ 2:18 pm: always talk with your doc..mine thought it was ‘low’ i just called up my pharmacy and scheduled..

  32. - Shannon Geis - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 2:30 am:

    I got my MMR in November. I went home and saw my 84 year old Dad for the holiday so I got tested several times. Surprised that I had 2 covid positive tests with no symptoms. I quarantined and no one else in my family got it. But, I’m 48, have asthma, and am a bit fat, no symptoms. I think it works. I invested in the company too. I don’t know why more people don’t just get it now since it’s only $100 and available at most Walgreens.

  33. - Math Teacher - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 2:52 pm:

    My doctor recommended the MMR vaccine to prevent severe Covid back in August. My wife, daughter, and I got the MMR vaccine last Sept and Oct - to be extra safe my wife and I took the recommended 2 MMR jabs 4 weeks apart. We got our first Covid jabs 2 weeks ago and are scheduled for the 2nd in 2 weeks. All with the same doctor. The science about the benefits of the MMR vaccine preventing severe Covid is compelling - nothing to lose and a lot to be gained. Many of our friends and family members have also gotten recent MMR vaccinations.

  34. - SethM - Thursday, Feb 11, 21 @ 4:00 pm:

    What is old is new:

  35. - Brad - Thursday, Feb 18, 21 @ 4:29 pm:

    I’m a trained microbiologist. I had my 80+year old parents get a MMR shot in December. Both were exposed to covid at Christmas. My Mom had a slight headache and was fine the next day. My dad had a severe sinus type infection and lost 10 lbs but his doctor gave him some antibiotics are he was fine a couple weeks later. Both have tested positive for covid antibodies so they probably had it in January. The MMR vaccine, Vitamin D and zinc saves their lives probably.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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