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Measles vaccine may protect children against Covid-19, finds study by Pune researchers

Amid concerns over the third wave of Covid-19 potentially affecting children more, a study conducted by researchers in India has found that kids inoculated with measles vaccine had milder symptoms upon contracting the novel coronavirus than those not vaccinated.

The study, conducted by BJ Medical College in Pune, also showed that measles vaccine had an effectiveness of 87.5 per cent against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, also said that measles vaccine might offer long-term protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in children. The researchers behind the study called for more trails to confirm their findings.

"This is the world's first such study. We focused on MMR vaccines for the study since the amino acid sequence of SARS-CoV-2 is nearly 30 per cent similar to that of rubella virus. The spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 is also similar to the hemagglutinin protein of the Measles virus. That is why we did the study and the results are promising," paediatrician Dr Nilesh Gujar, the study's lead investigator, told

Dr Nilesh Gujar said the MMR vaccine would give heterogenous protection to children.

"The MMR vaccine will give heterogenous protection to kids till a Covid-19 vaccine is made available. Those who have not been fully vaccinated or received a single dose must get inoculated so that they are protected against measles and also might get some protection against Covid-19," Dr Nilesh Gujar told IndiaToday.


The news bodes well for India since the measles vaccine has been part of the country's routine immunisation programme for the past 35 years. In India, the first dose of measles vaccine is given at 9-12 months of age and the second dose at 16-24 months of age.

The study was conducted on 548 children between the age of 1 to 17. They were split into two groups -- those who had tested positive for Covid-19 through RT-PCR tests and those who were not.

All participants in the study had received Oral Polio Virus (OPV) and all except one had received Bacillus CalmetteGuerin vaccines.

"Measles Containing Vaccines (MCVs) reduced incidence of laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in children. Number of symptomatic cases were also lower in the vaccinated group compared to the unvaccinated group," the study found. "Age and sex did not influence the protection provided by MCVs," it further stated.


The study lays credence to the hypothesis by several researchers that children may be protected against SARS-CoV-2 infection by "non-specific immunity" provided by live-attenuated vaccines like measles and BCG.

So far, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been milder in the paediatric population than in adults. However, children can be important carriers for transmission of the virus, the researchers noted.

Till now, only the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer has been approved for use on children. The vaccine is not available in India yet. In India, Zydus Cadila and Bharat Biotech are conducting clinical trials of their vaccines on children.

In March, the journal mBio reported that researchers from Ohio State University had developed a new Covid-19 vaccine candidate, called rMeV-preS, using a measles vaccine. The gene of a key protein is encased in a measles vaccine and delivered into the body.


Credit: IndiaToday | June 24, 2021

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