Flu and Measles Vaccines Could Help Flatten the COVID-19 Curve, Study Finds

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine (United States) and Oxford University (United Kingdom) have shown that even vaccines against flu and measles could help reduce the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, crystallizes decades of scientific evidence suggesting that the generalized immune-boosting properties of many vaccines may cross-protect patients against multiple pathogens.

Before specific COVID-19 vaccines were available, many public health experts and immunologists suggested immunizing vulnerable populations with other vaccines to provide some degree of protection.

"We know that unrelated vaccines have these heterologous effects, and a reasonable person could say that if you use them during a pandemic, it would be beneficial. However, it was unclear how much such an intervention would help, which populations it would best target, or which part of the population would have to receive the unrelated vaccines to have a significant effect."explains Nathaniel Hupert, one of the research leaders.

Using the winter COVID-19 wave of 2020-21 that hit the United States after the reopening, the researchers modeled the likely effects of a non-COVID-19 vaccine intervention at different times and targeting different populations.

Although they did not specify specific vaccines, the researchers chose cross-protection values ​​consistent with data from previous studies on measles, influenza, tuberculosis, and other immunizations.

They found that an unrelated vaccine that provided only 5 percent protection against severe COVID-19, and administered to only a small portion of the population, would have resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of cases and hospital use. .

"Surprisingly, we found a couple of really interesting results from what we put into the mix. While the severity of COVID-19 is closely correlated with age, an experimental setting that modeled vaccination of everyone over the age of 20 was more effective than strategies targeting only the elderly. This could be because young people tend to have more social contacts between age groups, making them more likely to spread the virus to more vulnerable populations. The timing of vaccination was also important, as administration during the rising phase of the wave of infections had the greatest impact."Hupert argues.

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