Researchers are investigating whether the anti-turberculosis vaccine bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), which appears to protect recipients from other respiratory infections, could protect against COVID-19.
Recent research suggests COVID-19’s impact is more severe — with more illness and more deaths — in countries that do not routinely administer the BCG vaccine, which has been used since 1921 to prevent tuberculosis infection.
The Serum Institute in India started large-scale clinical trials in April, testing 6,000 “high-risk” individuals, including health-care workers and close contact infected patients.
Researchers in Australia and Europe are also investigating whether BCG protects individuals at high-risk of serious COVID-19 infection, such as the elderly and health-care workers.
Indonesia is one of 17 countries in the world that produce BCG vaccine. It should also perform large-scale clinical trials testing BCG as a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 in countries with universal BCG vaccine
COVID-19’s impact on both the number of cases and deaths varies widely across countries. It’s influenced by factors such as testing capabilities, demography, the economy, and the quality of health-care systems and lockdown measures.
Another factor that might partially explain the variation is whether a country has a universal childhood BCG vaccination program.
We have compiled the latest data comparing countries’ BCG vaccination programs with their COVID-19 cases and mortality up to June 3.
The data indicates countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination (Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US) have been more severely affected, with a higher number of cases and deaths, compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG programs.
This is despite the fact these countries are considered to be high income countries. The data also suggests countries with a universal BCG vaccination program had a reduced number of report COVID-19 cases. The combination of reduced illness and death makes BCG vaccination a potential new tool in the fight against COVID-19.