Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, Missouri, is leading an ambitious, worldwide study to see if giving adults the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, a common vaccine administered to young children, could help protect against infection from COVID-19.
Washington University is leading the trial, along with the University College London and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and is aiming to enroll up to 30,000 health care workers globally, including 500 to 1,000 in the St. Louis area.
Dr. Laurence Lovat, the study leader in the United Kingdom, said if the MMR vaccine can boost the body’s general immune response, it may help the effectiveness of the first COVID-19 vaccines, which could be approved by the end of the year or earlier.
“If we discover that the MMR vaccine can help train the body’s immune response to SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus) infection, then we will have something to administer very quickly, while waiting for more specific vaccines and preventive therapies to be developed,” said Lovat.
The MMR vaccine was approved nearly 50 years ago and has since been given safely to hundreds of millions of people, greatly reducing the incidence of the diseases. The vaccine is typically given in two doses to a child before he or she turns 6.
While the vaccine provides lifelong protection against the three diseases, growing evidence suggests a booster shot as an adult may elicit a broad immune system response that could prevent infection from coronavirus for several months.
“We designed the study to focus on health care workers to maintain availability of this critical workforce worldwide,” said Mary Politi, Health Psychology Researcher and Surgery Professor at Washington University. “There are many other vulnerable groups in settings like congregate living facilities or schools, and we hope to find rapid results so we can share that knowledge with other high-risk groups.”
Missouri has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. From Missouri being highlighted by Vice President Mike Pence after launching its partnership with Google to help health care providers connect with Missouri manufacturers and suppliers of personal protective equipment; to Washington University School of Medicine announcing that it is launching a clinical trial to investigate vaccines to treat COVID-19; to Kansas City being chosen as the testing ground for an experimental coronavirus vaccine; Missouri is continuing to lead the way in fighting the pandemic.