News Excerpt
According to a new study, countries with mandatory policies to vaccinate against tuberculosis register fewer coronavirus deaths than countries that don’t have those policies.

What is BCG Vaccine?
•    Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease. This vaccine is not widely used in the United States, but it is often given to infants and small children in other countries where TB is common.
•    BCG, now a part of the National ImmunisationProgramme, has been administered to Indians over decades. The efficiency rate of the vaccine is around 60 per cent and the results also vary between countries. BCG does not always protect people from getting TB.
•    The vaccine was introduced in the 1920s to fight tuberculosis. India, with the world's highest number of tuberculosis cases, introduced BCG mass immunisation in 1948.
•    The BCG vaccine contains a live but weakened strain of tuberculosis bacteria that induces antibodies to attack TB bacteria and helps the body develop a defence against the disease.
•    Unlike other vaccines, the BCG vaccine may also boost the innate immune system, acts as a first-line defence that keep more than one pathogen from causing an infection.

    BCG, a tuberculosis vaccine that millions in India are given in childhood, may be the new hope in the fight against coronavirus.
    Scientists are testing the BCG Vaccine to see if it boosts the immune system to reduce respiratory symptoms in people who get new coronavirus infections.
    BCG vaccine sensitizes the immune system in such a way that, whenever any pathogen that relies on the same attack strategy as the tuberculosis bacteria attacks, it is ready to respond in a better way than the immune system of those who haven’t received the vaccine.
    A new report indicates that the mortality rate is much less in persons who have been vaccinated with BCG. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that BCG reduces mortality not just in new-borns but a lot of people who have been vaccinated.
    The study noted that while the incidence of COVID-19 in nations with a BCG protocol was 38.4 per million, that of nations without was 358.4 per million. The death rate in nations with a BCG vaccination programme was found to be 4.28 per million, while in countries without the programme, it was 40 per million.
    The US and other countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination, like Italy and the Netherlands, have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies. Countries including Japan and South Korea, which have managed to control the disease, have universal BCG vaccine policies.
    There is no evidence that the BCG vaccine protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus.

Way Forward
    Scientists are still working to better understand why the BCG vaccine may be effective against not just tuberculosis but other disease microbes.  
    Any vaccine for the COVID-19 is more than a year away from being available and the effectiveness of drugs under trial won’t be known for months to come.
    But, for the time being, BCG can be the best shot that people have to fight the coronavirus, given its safety profile is already well established.

National Tuberculosis Control Program, Anti-Microbial Resistance, National Immunisation Programme