Until a coronavirus vaccine is ready, pneumonia vaccines may reduce COVID-19 deaths |
Robert Root-Bernstein, Professor of Physiology, Michigan State U. |
Oct 14, 2020
The yearly influenza season threatens to make the COVID-19 pandemic doubly deadly, but I believe that this isn’t inevitable.
There are two commonly given vaccines – the pneumococcal vaccine and the Hib vaccine – that protect against bacterial pneumonias.
These bacteria complicate both influenza and COVID-19, often leading to death. My examination of disease trends and vaccination rates leads me to believe that broader use of the pneumococcal and Hib vaccines could guard against the worst effects of a COVID-19 illness.
I am an immunologist and physiologist interested in the effects of combined infections on immunity.
I have reached my insight by juxtaposing two seemingly unrelated puzzles: Infants and children get SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but very rarely become hospitalized or die; and case numbers and death rates from COVID-19 began varying greatly from nation to nation and city to city even before lockdowns began. I wondered why.
One night I woke up with a possible answer: vaccination rates.
Most children, beginning at age two months, are vaccinated against numerous diseases; adults less so. And, both infant and adult vaccination rates vary widely across the world.
Could differences in the rates of vaccination against one or more diseases account for differences in COVID-19 risks?
As someone who had previously investigated other pandemics such as the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 and AIDS, and who has worked with vaccines, I had a strong background for tracking down the relevant data to test my hypothesis.
Pneumococcal vaccination rates correlate with lower COVID-19 cases and deaths
I gathered national and some local data on vaccination rates against influenza, polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), tuberculosis (BCG), pneumococci and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). I correlated them with COVID-19 case rates and death rates for 24 nations that had experienced their COVID-19 outbreaks at about the same time. I controlled for factors such as percentage of the population who were obese, diabetic or elderly.
I found that only pneumococcal vaccines afforded statistically significant protection against COVID-19 … Read more.
Robert Root-Bernstein (Ph.D., Princeton University) is a professor of physiology at Michigan State University. His AB and PhD are from Princeton University. He did his post-doctoral research with Jonas Salk, MD, at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. In 1981, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as a “genius grant.” His research focuses on autoimmune diseases, drug development, the origins of cellular control systems, and science-arts interactions.
He has also researched and consulted on creativity for more than fifteen years. Among other books, he has authored Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People; Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels; Discovering: Inventing and Solving Problems at the Frontiers of Scientific Knowledge, and Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus.
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