What is it about?

Through their well-known beneficial indirect effects on the immune system, routine vaccines against common diseases like measles and tuberculosis can help defend the body against other conditions as well. We show that even relatively small non-COVID vaccination campaigns with minimal "knock-on" effects might lower the peak of COVID-19 surges if implemented at the right time.

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Why is it important?

The global rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 shows the need for new ways to control the pandemic aside from restrictive social measures (for which there is decreasing public support after 3 years of variable lockdowns) and targeted vaccination (which the Omicron variant seems to be good at evading). We looked at the possibility of using a beneficial side effect of routine vaccinations against common diseases -- namely, knock-on or "heterologous" immunity - to both support global public health during the pandemic and also "flatten the curve" of local surges in COVID-19 variants like Omicron for which there currently is poor control.


A good way to think about vaccines is that they provide exercise and training for your body's immune system. It was very rewarding to see that when we modeled the potential use of the "knock-on" effects of routine vaccinations for COVID-19 control, our results showed that even relatively small pubic health efforts (such as "catch up" campaigns for adults for common vaccine-preventable diseases like measles) might make a meaningful impact on COVID-19 surges. An interesting finding was that these non-COVID vaccination efforts appear to have the biggest impact on lowering COVID rates when they are given to both young and old adults alike and are implemented just when a COVID surge is getting started.

Nathaniel Hupert
Cornell University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Heterologous vaccination interventions to reduce pandemic morbidity and mortality: Modeling the US winter 2020 COVID-19 wave, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2025448119.
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