A new study shows that the death rate by coronavirus is six times lower in the countries that have a well-developed and extensive vaccination program. This is because most of the population has already received Bacillus Calmette- Guerin (BCG) vaccine which is surprisingly protecting them from COVID-19. Is the BCG vaccine really helpful against coronavirus? Researchers believe it is too early to tell if it helps or not.
This study investigating BCG vaccine and coronavirus cases is currently under review and you can read it online at medRxiv.
Currently, there is no vaccine against the novel coronavirus named SRA-COV2. The BCG vaccine is currently being studied for its potential role in COVID-19 protection and it is too early to say anything right now.
BCG vaccine was first developed in 1920 to protect people from the deadly TB which had no treatment nearly a century ago. Tuberculosis or TB is a bacterial infection and it causes respiratory illness. Bacillus Calmette- Guerin (BCG) vaccine contains attenuated strains of mycobacterium tuberculosis that stimulate the body to synthesize antibodies against the bacteria.
This type of immunity where the body makes antibodies against a specific pathogen is called “adaptive immune response” and most of the vaccines are created to initiate this adaptive immune response with respect to a certain pathogen.
BCG vaccine also improves natural immunity, also called the BCG vaccine also enhances innate immunity which is the first line of defense in the case of a pathogenic attack. It prevents the entry of a pathogen thus protects the body from infection.
A previous study from 2011 shows that low birth weight infants if vaccinated with the BCG vaccine, would save them from death. An epidemiological study conducted for 25 years studied 150,000 children from 33 countries and reported that the risk of acute lower respiratory tract infections has reduced to 40% in the children who received the BCG vaccine.
The Bacillus Calmette- Guerin (BCG) vaccine is not suitable for patients who are already diagnosed with this disease and are hospitalized or under treatment. The vaccine would not work on them as the bacterium is already present inside their bodies and replicating. Also, it might interact with their prescription medicines and change their effects.
Despite its significance, the BCG vaccine is rather inexpensive and it only costs $30. This vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and safe for human use.
From 1953 to 2005, it was made compulsory for every school-going child in the UK aged 10 -14 years to receive the BCG vaccine. In 2005 as the TB cases dropped, doctors stopped giving this vaccine to children and it was only used on a person who was at high risk of tuberculosis.
The medical experts hope that the vaccine will eventually promote a timely immune system by identifying and killing the virus before it damages the body. There are many factors that might cause biased results hence need to be adjusted accordingly.
Despite all these discussions, there is limited information to prove if the Bacillus Calmette- Guerin (BCG) vaccines are effective against coronavirus or not. There are a number of BCG vaccines available all with varying abilities to protect from different strains of TB.
There is a dire need to find out the best BCG vaccine that activates the immune system against the novel coronavirus. According to researchers, it would take several months to test these BCG vaccines that might help people to prevent COVID-19. Also, it is not advised to get the BCG vaccine on your own during this pandemic period as it may cause un-desirabale effects in people.