In a world so quickly changed beyond our imagining, we suddenly find ourselves in an age of fever desperate for a vaccine to deliver us from COVID-19. If only we can return to the health, prosperity and camaraderie of the old world just two months ago. Family weddings, reunions, dinner parties and even funerals? Forget it: we can no longer trust even our dearest friends and relatives not to transmit the virus to us unwittingly unless they arrive wearing medical masks, promise not to hug us and stay the heck six feet away.
The words now come flooding back to me in this new era with renewed poignancy from the Book of Common Prayer: “O God, make speed to save us; O Lord, make haste to help us.”
Speaking of God, thank heaven He in fact has given us scientists, healthcare professionals, computer and data experts who are making haste to save us. Even a layman like me (yet another of Jackson’s lawyers) can only be intrigued by a recent data study suggesting that if we simply extend the use of the existing MMR Vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), now commonly given to youth worldwide, to our older citizens who have not had it, we could stop a second wave of the pandemic. Most of us over the age of 50 have not had the prescribed two doses of the MMR (I’m 68 and not had either). Yet most of the deaths are occurring in the older population who have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine. Is there a correlation?
Jeffrey Gold, a computer scientist and data analyst, published an epidemiological data study very recently on May 7 suggesting that there is. The MMR vaccine did not become available for children until 1971 and those recipients are now ages 49 or younger. Physicians increased the dosage in 1979 to two rounds (given at age one and then between 2 and 6). Those recipients are now ages 41 and younger.
Get this. Gold and his colleagues, looking at worldwide data, find a slight increase in the death rate from COVID-19 right around or just after 40 years old for the group that would have received only a single dose of the MMR vaccine instead of two. Then the COVID-19 death rate really takes off for those ages 50 and older who have never received a single dose of the MMR vaccine.
For example, in Italy, those ages 49 and younger had a morbidity rate from COVID-19 increasing from 0 percent at age one up to just 0.4 percent at age 49. However, the death rate suddenly spikes for the age group 50 to 59 to 1 percent, then takes off from ages 60 to 69 to 3.5 percent, and from there climbs steadily. Could it be that younger people are just more resilient and have fewer underlying conditions? Sure, in part. That’s where Gold’s data really becomes intriguing though. Gold goes on to find correlations suggesting better outcomes in COVID-19 mortality for countries that started their MMR vaccinations programs earlier rather than later. Even more impressively, he finds data suggesting that the countries that have done the best of all are those forced to reimmunize their populations to include nearly everyone of all ages in just the past few decades to deal with measles outbreaks.
Hong Kong, for example, is nearly the size of New York City and the fourth most dense place in the world. Hong Kong sported crowded street demonstrations of up to a million as recently as January (think Mardi Gras on steroids with a very sharp edge). Hong Kong from 1997 on through 2020 immunized not just infants, but all children through the age of 19, and then extended the immunizations to many adults as well, especially healthcare, airport and foreign domestic workers. According to Gold’s study: “Only four people have died from COVID-19 in all of Hong Kong despite its proximity to the epicenter of the pandemic, just 563 miles away in Wuhan, China.” The contrast with New York City could not be more startling where there were 14,482 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and, in addition, 5,313 probable COVID-19 deaths during the same time. Yes, that’s nearly 20,000 deaths versus four!
Gold notes that one is not required to vaccinate 100 percent of the population to reach herd immunity to point of eliminating nearly all deaths. The key is to get the transmission rate down to a reproductive number (R) of the virus spreading from one infected person to others of less than one. According to Gold, that “stops the logarithmic progression.” Further, “a drop in the R value below one likely explains why many populations through high MMR vaccination rates have reported so few deaths from COVID-19.”
Gold and his colleagues published an early version of their study on March 29 and sent it to Dr. Anthony Fauci who forwarded it to the National Institute of Health. According to Mr. Gold’s most recent press release: “Corroborating biological evidence was published 12 days later by a team of neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, indicating that Rubella is the component of the MMR vaccine active against COVID-19.”
Gold’s study calls for “an immediate investigation of using the already available MMR Vaccine in controlled studies to show a protective benefit.” His colleague Dr. Larry Tilley, a medical internist, recently stated that that the “commonly available MMR Vaccinations could be the key to preventing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this fall.”
My interest piqued, I contacted Mr. Gold at his home in Atlanta. He tells me he was on a drive from California to Atlanta with a stop in Jackson in mid-March when he came up with his theory. Just a few days before reaching Jackson his theory came to him, so he stopped his journey for a few days at a hotel in Humble, Texas, to begin his research from a laptop. Mr. Gold decided to get the MMR vaccination right there in Humble and then, upon his return to Atlanta, got the second MMR booster two weeks later.
We are desperate to put the world back together and end the death and economic as well as social destruction. Mr. Gold noted to me that “word really has to get out and fast” about their work. His work reminds me of the motto of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, which I attended: “We will find a way, or we will make one” (Inveniemus Viam Aut Faciemus). So Jeff Gold: God’s speed to you and your colleagues. Please keep us in Jackson informed of your progress.
Robert P. Wise is a Northsider.