Nations with robust BCG vaccination regime recording lower COVID-19 deaths, says survey

A nurse cares a sleeping patient at the Oceanico hospital in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro on June 22, 2020, during the pandemic. Brazil is the second worst-affected country behind the United States, registering over 50,000 deaths. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

A new study by researchers from , United Kingdom and the United States (U.S.) has found out that nations with robust Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination policies are recording lower deaths.

They, however, said further enquiries needed to be undertaken to determine the level of protection offered by the immunisation against the Severe Acute Respiratory type 2 (SARS-COV-2) also known as .

BCG is one of the routine vaccines given to newborn babies in hours or days after birth to shield them from tuberculosis.

But the survey, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology and titled, “A Multi-country Level Comparison of BCG Vaccination Policy and Cases and Mortality”, discovered that the common vaccine could contain the pandemic.

The cross-sectional research established the between BCG vaccination policies and infections in 178 countries.

Information on the BCG programmes of the sampled countries and were extracted from the BCG world atlas and the World Organisation (WHO) situation report of April 7, 2020. Chi square tests were used to determine statistical significance. Spearman’s rank-order correlation was also deployed to determine if a existed between BCG policies and cases and deaths in the selected nations.

In establishing a strong correlation, the investigators wrote: “Two countries which had no BCG vaccination policy had over 100,000 confirmed cases and higher fatalities. Chi square statistics showed a significant difference in COVD-19 related deaths between countries with BCG vaccination policies and those without, including the ones, which had in the past, but not anymore (χ2 = 122.264, df 12, p < 0.0005).

“Spearman rank-order correlation shows statistically significant, strong negative correlation between countries’ BCG vaccination policies and confirmed cases and deaths (BCG policy and confirmed cases – correlation coefficient -0.427, p < 0.0005), BCG policy and related death –correlation coefficient -0.374, p < 0.0005).”

The pollsters include Moses Katbi of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ; Oluwatosin Adeoye of the Society for Family (SFH), ; an independent public consultant in , Adefisayo Adedoyin; Washington STAR fellow, USAID, , Adeoye Adegboye; and Iyiola Faturiyele of USAID, United States.

Others are Maryam Bello of the Hubert Department of Global , Emory Rollins School of Public , United States; Rose Khatri of the Public Institute, John Moores University, United Kingdom; and Michele Russel from USAID, United States.

The latest work contradicts WHO’s April 12, 2020 publication.

The Scientific Brief of the global agency had read in part: “There is no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus. Two clinical trials addressing this question are underway, and WHO will evaluate the evidence when it is available.

In the absence of evidence, WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination for the prevention of COVID-19. WHO continues to recommend neonatal BCG vaccination in countries or settings with a high incidence of tuberculosis.”

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