A recently-published study theorizes that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine may help protect people from COVID-19. After analyzing their data, researchers came to the conclusion that people with higher levels of mumps antibodies tended to experience less severe cases of the coronavirus.
Published in mBio, an open access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology, the study suggests that there is a relationship between the MMR vaccine and the COVID-19 virus. Researchers first put forth this theory early on in the pandemic after noting that rates of coronavirus infection were lowest in countries that had recently had large-scale MMR vaccination campaigns.
Here in the States, we have also noticed that COVID-19 tends to affect young children and adolescents less severely than adults, but medical professionals have not been sure of the reason. This new research may explain why.
About the research
For the study, researchers took 80 test subjects, dividing them into two groups. One group, all born in the United States, had MMR antibodies from receiving the MMR II vaccine. The second group also had MMR antibodies but had developed them from other sources, like being previously infected by mumps, measles or rubella. What the researchers were specifically looking for were “titers” – a test that measures those antibodies in the blood.
Within the first group, who had received an MMR vaccination, the researchers found a significant inverse correlation between the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and the level of mumps titers. Further, those with the highest mump titers were asymptomatic and functionally immune. Subjects with the lowest mump titers experienced the most severe cases of coronavirus.
The hypothesis (for laypeople like us) is that within the mumps virus, one of its proteins may contain a significant similarity to some surface proteins on the coronavirus. When vaccinated and exposed to the coronavirus, the body recognizes the protein and activates the body’s immune system.
“This is the first immunological study to evaluate the relationship between the MMR II vaccine and COVID-19. The statistically significant inverse correlation between mumps titers and COVID-19 indicates that there is a relationship involved that warrants further investigation,” said study co-author David J. Hurley, PhD.
Adds lead study author Jeffrey E. Gold, president of World Organization, in Watkinsville, Georgia, “This adds to other associations demonstrating that the MMR vaccine may be protective against COVID-19. It also may explain why children have a much lower COVID-19 case rate than adults, as well as a much lower death rate. The majority of children get their first MMR vaccination around 12 to 15 months of age and a second one from 4 to 6 years of age.”
Should I get the MMR vaccine?
It is important to keep in mind that this study is just that – a study. Ongoing clinical trials regarding MMR vaccines and COVID-19 protection are underway around the country to determine more about the cause and effect relationship. The MMR vaccine has not been approved for treatment of COVID-19.