By David J. Dzielak, PhD and Robert P. Wise, JD
We are sharing the two easy steps we have each taken in the belief they likely lower our risks from the worst aspects of COVID-19 while we await availability of a targeted vaccine. We are professionals in our sixties. David is a PhD, formerly a professor at UMMC and was for six years the Director of Mississippi Medicaid. Robert is a Jackson lawyer and JD. Like you we are anxious now to return to the fullness of life. Like you we ask: what can we do right now that may have been overlooked? Indeed, what can we all do together now to avoid the worst aspects of the coming second wave?
While these two steps will not stop our becoming infected (we must continue with social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing) they give us more confidence as we go about our lives in this new age of COVID-19. Both steps result from our reading recent studies offered by scientific researchers. You should know that these studies have not received peer review yet. Still, we have not waited. We have seen little risk for ourselves so have taken these measures. What we are certain of is that the virus is out there; it presents a clear and present danger, especially for our age group as persons over age 50.
First, we each received the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) Vaccine. We followed the example offered by Jeffrey E. Gold, an independent data researcher of the nonprofit Our World Organization, by receiving the easily available, existing MMR Vaccine. Jeff Gold like so many people around the world age 50 and older, had not received the MMR Vaccination. The vaccine did not become available as a single round for infants until 50 years ago in 1971; the recommended dosage changed to two rounds (taken 30 days apart for adults) in 1979. Jeff took the two succeeding rounds of the MMR immediately upon concluding from his research of worldwide data that there is a strong break point for death from the virus at age 50. Those age 49 or younger born since the MMR Vaccine became available for young children had a significantly lower incidence of death from COVID-19 than those ages 50 or older born before the vaccine became available. He also found that persons ages 41 and under who would have received both rounds of the MMR had faired even better than those born when the dosage was one round. Jeff’s conclusion that MMR vaccines may have a protective effect is now corroborated by an unreviewed study of neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge.
Second, we have each added the moderate taking of Vitamin D supplements to our daily routine. We are impressed by research showing an association between those suffering the worst effects of COVID-19 and vitamin D deficiencies. A recent publication by Dr. Eamon Laird and Professor Anne Kenney, Trinity College Dublin, suggests an association between Vitamin D deficiency and mortality from COVID-19. Vitamin D supports the immune system’s fight against the virus in addition to aiding bone and muscle health. The study’s authors believe vitamin D regulates the inflammatory cytokine response which causes the worst consequences of COVID-19, including acute respiratory distress syndrome that can come with ventilation and lead to death. In response to the COVID-19 crisis British health authorities recommend “at least 400 IU vitamin D daily.” In the absence of randomized trials, the evidence is not conclusive but is “strongly circumstantial evidence of associations between vitamin D and the severity of COVID-19 responses, including death.” The Irish researchers “call on the Irish government to update guidelines as a matter of urgency and encourage all adults to take supplements during the COVID-19 crisis.” We are heeding their recommendation with daily D3 supplements.
Getting the MMR is easy enough if you know where to go. Here’s Robert’s experience. I went to TrustCare just off Old Colony Parkway in Ridgeland. They were wonderful: no appointment; little wait; no copay; no questions; just stick out your arm and you’re done. Oh, and come back in 30 days for the booster. By Contrast Walgreens told me they ceased giving vaccinations because of social distancing; CVS said they were out; and my Doctor at St. D’s clinic suggested I go to the pharmacies that turned out to be unhelpful. I like the doc-in-a-box.
David notes that according to the Cambridge investigators looking at the effect of the MMR vaccine, the pointy spike proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are known as class 1 viral membrane fusion proteins. The virus uses these structures to attach to human cells to begin the process of infection. The spike proteins have structural similarities to the fusion proteins of both the measles and mumps viruses. In fact, there is a 29 percent similarity. These same surface structures are present on the Rubella virus used in making the MMR vaccine. When an individual receives an MMR vaccination the body begins to make antibodies against the MMR viruses which then protects the individual from getting those infections.
The Cambridge researchers discovered that patients with COVID-19 responded to a diagnostic test for Rubella antibodies as though they had an active Rubella infection instead of their COVID-19 infection. In addition, the greater the severity of the COVID-19 infection, the greater the response to the Rubella antibody test. This suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be targeted at least partially by an antibody raised against Rubella.
As David notes, this does not mean that the presence of Rubella antibodies will protect an individual from getting COVID-19. However, it suggests that pre-existing Rubella antibodies created by receiving a Rubella vaccination may arm the immune system with a potentially effective weapon to lessen the severity of the COVID-19 disease. This is not a panacea but a potential stopgap measure to lessen the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 until a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is developed and deployed.
Robert reported May 14 in the Northside Sun on Jeff Gold’s data study suggesting a correlation between persons receiving the MMR and a reduced COVID-19 death rate. Jeff’s statistics not only show a worldwide break in mortality outcomes from COVID-19 at age 50 between those who have had or not had the MMR. Further, Jeff ‘s research shows outcomes were far better in country after country that had extended MMR inoculations to persons over age 50, than the US or Europe have experienced where many persons over age 50 have not received the MMR Vaccine. Jeff’s data are verified by his co-investigators. We are impressed by Jeff’s examples from around the world including:
Hong Kong: Jeff’s study notes Hong Kong is nearly the size of New York City, has the fourth densest population on the planet, and as late as January had crowded street demonstrations. Hong Kong instituted a mass immunization “catch-up” campaign to extend MMR coverage through age 19 and to many adults, especially healthcare, airport, and domestic workers. Despite proximity 563 miles away to the epicenter of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, just four have died in Hong Kong from COVID-19 while New York City has experienced in the same period over 20,000 confirmed or suspected deaths from COVID-19.
South Korea: In response to a large measles outbreak South Korea vaccinated much of its population. South Korea has a mandatory military for all young males. All military recruits in the country are now vaccinated with the MMR. South Korea has had a low incidence of death from COVID-19: just one in South Korea dying for every 4678 people versus the US with one dying in every 225 people according to the New York Times COVID-19 Tracker.
The USS Roosevelt: The USS Roosevelt stopped for a port of call in Vietnam and then set out to sea where an outbreak started. Onboard 1102 tested positive for COVID-19 including its Captain, Brett Crozier. The US military had given all recruits the MMR upon entry regardless of their vaccination histories. For many young sailors that was a double dose. So far only one death, no one currently in ICU, and only seven hospitalized instead of the 100 one would expect from CDC data. Gold reports: “The hospitalization rate for those on the USS Roosevelt appears to be around 20 times lower than that for the general population of COVID-19 positive people in the same age range.”
Madagascar: A country of 27.5 million, Madagascar vaccinated over a quarter of its population with the MMR in 2019 in addition to anyone previously vaccinated. Tally: zero (0) deaths from COVID-19, one of the few countries with no COVID-19 deaths.
The contrast is Belgium which has the highest COVID-19 death rate per capita in the world. Belgium did not even offer the MMR vaccine until 1985 and did not increase dosage to two rounds until 1995. Belgium is half again the size of Hong Kong but has had 9005 COVID-19 deaths in the latest New York Times tally to Hong Kong’s four deaths.
We remain expectant that researchers can come up with a targeted vaccine. Yet that is a bit like entering the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes: we can hope but what we know is we better see what is readily available now and do what we can. We are sharing our decisions, not presuming to give medical advice. You should consult your own physician and make your own decisions. We made ours because we deem them reasonable for ourselves given the risk the virus poses.
Our opinion is that the more people who choose to adopt these two simple measures now, the stronger the societal response to the virus can be as we head toward the summer and fall. These steps just might ward off the worst effects of a second wave of the pandemic on our healthcare, social and economic systems. We can say for ourselves taking these two steps has given us more confidence as we attempt to resume our lives and face the days ahead.