Recent news claiming that the Tuberculosis vaccine- BCG may be effective against Covid-19 is an important one; so much so it requires urgent investigation.
This claim is rampant on WhatsApp platforms, usually citing studies that examine links between national vaccination policies and Covid-19 incidences.
The assumption of the claim is – given that BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine provides “broad protection to respiratory infections,” it should give some protection against Covid-19. The first study of this kind observed that countries which had universal and long-standing BCG policies were less affected by Covid-19. Therefore, concluding that “BCG might confer long-lasting protection against the current strain of coronavirus”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), the organisation which has global stewardship for public health, has addressed this claim directly. On April 12, the WHO, in recognising the dangers of misinformation at this sensitive time, stated in their scientific brief that:
“There is no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus”.
The organisation further puts the claim to rest, saying that two clinical trials that seek to address these very concerns of people are underway.
The BCG Vaccine
A vaccine which has existed for nearly a century is now the center of attention for hopeful global citizens.
Health practitioners typically use the BCG vaccine to protect children against severe forms of tuberculosis- a Mycobacterium-caused life-threatening infectious disease. Worse still, health authorities consider this disease, a leading cause of death in many parts of the world, including Nigeria. However, the BCG vaccine is only effective against 70% to 80% of the most severe forms of TB in children, says the UK’s National Health Service. BCG does not protect against numerous respiratory infections as the claim suggests; if this were true, we would not still need the influenza vaccine.
It is worth mentioning that there is no evidence to support the claims. The BCG vaccine has no documented protective effects against any other disease but tuberculosis and interestingly, meningitis and leprosy.
Worse still, the fact that viruses such as SARSCov2 neglect to respond in like manner to bacteria further adds to our scepticism. In the same vein, the WHO occasionally reiterates that there are no confirmed vaccines for COVID-19. Also, the organisation affirms that it will be months before they approve a vaccine; adding that the agency is currently investigating about 115 possible vaccines. Hence, we can conclusively say the BCG vaccine is not a means to protect oneself against COVID-19 until reputable health authorities say otherwise.
The danger of such assertions
At this critical time in the world’s history, the search for a solution to Covid- 19 is imperative; so much so it attracts the attention of scientists, various health practitioners and ordinary citizens alike. Consequently, one must be cautious about propagating news of a cure by BCG or other vaccines until the scientific community so confirms. Similar claims have been made about chloroquine, just as is the claim about an imminent Covid-19 vaccine.
As evidenced by the preceding, it is best to disregard this claim. That is, however, until sources of repute proclaim after much research and substantial findings say otherwise. Notwithstanding, it is understandable to see optimism in ongoing research efforts in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic; still, citizens must remain critical and well-informed.