Is Sri Lanka’s decades-old BCG vaccine regime fighting off Covid-19?

Is Sri Lanka’s decades-old BCG vaccine regime fighting off Covid-19?

Is Sri Lanka’s decades-old BCG vaccine regime fighting off Covid-19?

Written by Staff Writer

09 Apr, 2020 | 3:31 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): As the world looks for answers to battle Covid-19, a new scientific study is offering an explanation as to why the virus seems to spread rapidly in some countries and not in others.

Why has Spain had nearly 15,000 deaths from the corona-virus pandemic while Portugal’s death toll is less than 500?

Such a disparity in numbers within one region is mysterious, but it could in part be explained by the different use of a vaccine, in the two nations.

Not a vaccine against COVID-19 but the decades-old tuberculosis vaccine BCG.

Euronews reports of  a new scientific study that has discovered a possible correlation between countries where it is mandatory to be vaccinated against tuberculosis, also called “Bacillus Calmette-Guerin” Or (BCG), and the impact of the new corona-virus.

The study’s authors noted that “…countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination (Italy, Netherlands, USA) have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies”

Italy, the country with the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 with over 17,000 deaths, has never universally applied tuberculosis vaccination.

Japan, which has reported only 63 deaths from corona-virus and has taken less stringent containment measures, has a universal tuberculosis vaccination policy.

The researchers also compared Iran to Japan, two countries that have applied universal BCG vaccination, but at different times.

Japan started its universal BCG vaccination policy in 1947 while the Iranian policy was put in place in 1984. Japan has about 100 fewer deaths per million inhabitants than Iran.

The report noted that “Countries that have a late start of universal BCG policy (Iran, 1984) had high mortality, consistent with the idea that BCG protects the vaccinated elderly population”, adding that they also found that “BCG vaccination also reduced the number of reported COVID-19 cases in a country”.

A team of Australian researchers announced last week that they have started testing the tuberculosis vaccine on a large scale to see if it can protect healthcare staff from the corona-virus.

French scientists began developing the BCG vaccine in 1908 . The name BCG, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, comes from the names of the two bacteriologists involved: Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin.

According to the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, the BCG vaccine became mandatory in Sri Lanka in 1949, and was introduced to new born’s in 1963.

“BCG is given in hospital and even right now we are giving BCG in the hospital at birth. And our coverage is above 95%, so we are reaching almost 100% coverage in hospitals,”Dr. Paba Palihawadana, Deputy Director General of the Epidemiology Unit said.

“We are immunizing each neonate at birth in the hospital,” she added.


The Scientific Study:

https://www.medrxiv.org/

Euronews report:

https://www.euronews.com/

 

 

 

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