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Effect of BCG Vaccine on Covid-19

  • 03 Apr 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, Doctors and scientists in India have expressed caution on a study, which argues that countries that have deployed the BCG-tuberculosis vaccine in their immunisation programmes have seen fewer deaths from COVID-19.

Key Points Related to Study

  • BCG Vaccine Policy and COVID-19 Deaths
    • The middle and high-income countries
      • Countries that have universal BCG policy had 0.78 deaths per million people.
      • The countries that never had a universal BCG policy had a larger mortality rate, with 16.39 deaths per million people, a significant variation.
    • Low and middle-income countries, even if they had universal immunisation policies, were excluded from the analysis because they were also likely to have low testing rates for COVID-19 infection and therefore fewer reported deaths.
    • India having a universal BCG policy in place and relatively fewer deaths as a proportion of confirmed coronavirus infections, wasn’t included in the analysis.
  • BCG Vaccine confers a strong immune response
    • The BCG vaccine is known to confer a strong immune response and a significant degree of protection against leprosy and non-invasive bladder cancers.
    • Those countries where the elderly were likely to have had a BCG shot in their childhood were likely to be better protected against coronavirus because COVID-19 was particularly lethal to the elderly.
  • Cases of Different Countries
    • Japan (which has a BCG policy since 1947) had one of the early cases of COVID-19 but it has maintained a low mortality rate despite not implementing the most strict forms of social isolation.
      • Japan had 1,655 cases and 65 deaths as of March 29.
    • Iran, which has seen at least 3,000 deaths,began implementing its BCG vaccination policy only in 1984 and therefore anyone over 36 was vulnerable.
    • Spain, France, the United States, Italy and the Netherlands:
      • These countries don’t have universal BCG policies and have seen many deaths from COVID-19.
      • Many of these countries don’t have a universal programme because BCG has been shown to not be always protective against tuberculosis in adults as well as an increased risk of mycobacterium (bacteria) species.
      • Italy, where the COVID-19 mortality is very high, never implemented universal BCG vaccination.
  • Views of Indian Scientists and Doctors
    • it is premature for India, that has had a consistent TB vaccination policy since 1968, to take comfort from the study.
    • Australia, the Netherlands, the United States are going to vaccinate healthcare workers with BCG. This may provide some evidence.

Source: TH

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