BCG vaccine trial starts in Cape Town

CAPE TOWN- Around 500 willing healthcare workers will participate in a clinical trial to determine if BCG (re)vaccination will reduce the probability of Covid-19 infections and the severity of symptoms.

The Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG) vaccine is one of the oldest and most trusted immunisations. 100 years ago it was developed at France’s legendary Pasteur Institute.

A clinical research organisation based in Cape Town, TASK has started a clinical trial to test whether the BCG vaccine helps limit the damage caused by Covid-19.

The study which is led by Professor Andreas Diacon and Dr Caryn Upton will regularly run statistical tests to see if an advantage of BCG (re)vaccination can be shown.

BCG has been administered in South Africa since the 1970s under the vaccination policy. All new-borns in the country are vaccinated and it is used against tuberculosis in children, but it also has non-specific protective effects against other respiratory tract infections in children and adults.

Upton says that 500 participants will be (re)vaccinated in the clinical trial, however half of the participants will be administered a placebo, or a substance with no known medical effects.

“The vaccine can prime your body or your immune system to respond better to other types of infections. There’s no guarantee that it will have an effect on Coronavirus. We would need robust evidence to recommend the BCG vaccine to help fight Covid-19,” said Upton.

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