South Africa has begun a trial to assess whether the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine could be used to fight COVID-19.
This very old vaccine was developed over 100 years ago to help fight tuberculosis.
Now, TASK, a medical trials centre in Cape Town, has begun testing the effectiveness of the vaccine against the coronavirus.
They have injected 250 healthcare workers with this vaccine to determine whether it reduces the cases of infection with SARS-CoV-2 virus and/or the severity of symptoms of COVID-19 disease.
“Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is used as a vaccine against tuberculosis in children, but it also has non-specific protective effects against other respiratory tract infections in children and adults.
“South Africa does vaccinate all new-borns with BCG. Re-vaccinating adults could help reduce the consequences of this pandemic,” TASK said.
The reason they are using health care workers is two-fold. First, those in hospitals are the most likely to be exposed to COVID-19, making them the best suited to test the effectiveness of the vaccine when faced with the virus. The second is because hospital frontline staff are vital to ensuring the management and treatment of infected citizens and therefore should it prove successful, this will help in avoiding staff shortages.
The study is funded by TASK itself and is limited to 500 participants. The group said the results will be looked at by an independent committee and if there is a robust positive finding, they will make the results public.