If clinical trials produce evidence of the effectiveness the BCG vaccine prior to the invention of a COVID-19 vaccine, this will play an important role in fighting against the coronavirus, albeit not its prevention.
Internet media Itar.ge published a news article under the lengthy title of “Based on a new research study, we congratulate everyone who has such a ‘scar’ on their arm because the coronavirus cannot harm you – People who were vaccinated with the so-called BCG are most resistant against the coronavirus.” This article was widely discussed in social networks. According to CrowdTangle’s data, it garnered over 52,000 interactions in total on Facebook (of this amount, over 26,000 were reactions, there were more than 14,000 comments and nearly 12,000 shares). Georgia and the World also commented upon this issue and stated that the effectiveness of the BCG against the coronavirus has already been confirmed. In addition, Georgia and the World used this information to discredit the West and point out its backwardness which, as opposed to the Soviet Union, did not use this vaccine against tuberculosis. This issue has been widely circulating in the Russian media as well. There were also many manipulative titles in the Russian media trying to portray an unconfirmed hypothesis as a confirmed fact. For instance: “Effect of BCG vaccine on the coronavirus has been found,” “Link between the coronavirus mortality rate and the popular vaccine has been found” and “American epidemiologists: “BCG vaccine affects the coronavirus mortality rate.”
Itar.ge uses the information of NeuroScience News and France 24 and writes that: “According to the report, the well-known vaccine, the so-called BCG, which is actively administered to children even these days, can be successfully applied to prevent the coronavirus before the coronavirus vaccine is invented.”
Of note is that NeuroScience News and France 24 as well as other mainstream media have in fact also reported information about the aforementioned vaccine. However, the article published by Itar.ge contains numerous inaccuracies. Most importantly, the title manipulatively demonstrates the possible use of the vaccine in fighting the coronavirus and tries to persuade the reader that they will remain unharmed by the coronavirus if they were vaccinated with BCG. By making a definitive statement in regard to still unconfirmed information, Georgia and the World also misleads the public.
Australian scientists are indeed going to start trials on the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine (which was invented for the prevention of tuberculosis). The study will be carried out at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. The study is led by Professor Nigel Curtis, Head of Infectious Diseases Research. As stated by Professor Curtis, the BCG vaccine can boost the immune system so that it defends better against a whole range of different infections as well as a wide spectrum of different viruses and bacteria. Around 4,000 healthcare workers volunteered to be part of the trial. The trial will take six months and the initial results will be available in three months. The trials will also take place in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. One thousand healthcare workers from eight hospitals will take part in trial in the Netherlands. As stated by the Deputy Director of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia, Paata Imnadze, multiple hypotheses were published in regard to the protective function of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine with particular emphasis on the mumps component and the BCG vaccine although they have not yet been corroborated with scientific evidence. In the case if their effectiveness is confirmed, Georgia will be quite well protected since the BCG vaccine has been administered to both older and younger generations.
As opposed to Itar.ge’s report, this vaccine is not being considered as a mean of preventing the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Scientists hope that the vaccine will alleviate the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and as a result the infected person will recover more easily whilst the reduction of the risk of the development of an acute disease will also reduce the mortality rate. If clinical trials produce evidence of the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine, this will play an important role in fighting against the coronavirus prior to the invention of a COVID-19 vaccine, albeit not in its prevention.
The author of article published by Itar.ge believes that the widespread use of the so-called BCG vaccine in the Soviet Union is the reason why the spread of the virus was lower in post-Soviet countries as compared to Europe and the US. This is also claimed in the Russian media and repeated by Georgia and the World.
The basis of the aforementioned groundless claim is the article (on the correlation between the BCG vaccination policy and the COVID-19 mortality rate) of the New York Institute of Technology’s Department of Biomedical Sciences which is only a preprint of a scholarly work which has to be peer-reviewed by different experts before being published as a research study.
The article makes a comparison of the mortality rate per million people between countries with a universal BCG vaccination policy and countries without such a policy. The countries are divided into three categories: low, middle and high-income categories. Of note is that the BCG is mostly used in low-income countries.
A mortality rate is affected by a myriad of other factors (for instance, the average age of the population, the number of beds in hospitals for infected people, necessary equipment, etc.) and the article fails to take these variables into account. In addition, many coronavirus deaths are reported in such countries where the universal BCG vaccine is widely used; in particular, in China and Iran, which already renders dubious the author’s opinions. Furthermore, the spread of the virus in different countries started at different times and they are at different stages of outbreaks. Therefore, such comparisons are irrelevant.