- BCG vaccine is use to fight tuberculosis
- Researchers hinted a link between BCG vaccine and prevention of COVID-19
- Doctors explain that the studies are still not verified
New Delhi: BCG or Bacille Calmette-Guerin is a vaccine that was introduced in the 1920s to fight tuberculosis. India, with the world’s highest number of tuberculosis cases, introduced BCG mass immunisation programme in 1948. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the rising coronavirus cases, researchers and professors in some preliminary studies, which are yet to be verified, peer-reviewed and have hinted at a possible a link between the BCG vaccine’s capability in boosting immunity to stall the novel coronavirus. The preprints of the report released indicate that the mortality rate is much less in persons who have been vaccinated with BCG. The study also noted that the incidence of COVID-19 in nations with a BCG vaccination was 38.4 per million, compared to those countries without BCG vaccination programme where the incidence of COVID-19 was 358.4 per million. The death rate in nations with a BCG vaccination programme, the initial study found to be 4.28 per million, while in countries without the programme, it was 40 per million.
NDTV spoke to doctors to know more about the BCG vaccine and if it has the potential to act as a shield against COVID-19.
Dr Rishi Shukla, Endocrinologist, Regency Health Care said,
From the last couple of days, this question is doing the rounds everywhere. As Indians, we have taken this vaccine in our childhood. But does it mean that we are safe or we are immune to such infections has not been proved anywhere? This is all in the anticipation and till now the guidelines have not come that if those Indians who have not been given or got BCG vaccine in childhood should be given one now.
Dr Mahesh Chavan, Endocrinologist, Apollo Hospitals, Mumbai, on the other hand, said,
BCG vaccine has been known for immunity against a lot of viruses and that’s the reason it is given at the very early age to an individual. But at this stage, it is too early to say that the vaccine is good enough to fight thIS deadly virus. Even if as a precautionary measure India starts to immunise those who haven’t been vaccinated with BCG, it won’t make sense, as it takes 6 months to 1 year to show results. At this point of time, we should wait for clinical trials where BCG is studied for its response to tackle coronavirus.
On April 14, the World Health Organisation also denied the studies suggesting that the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine may be effective in the prevention of the highly contagious coronavirus infection. Currently, two clinical trials addressing this question are underway and the evidence will be evaluated later.
Till then the global body said it continues to recommend neonatal BCG vaccination in countries or settings with a high incidence of tuberculosis.