Expert ‘sceptical’ about BCG vaccine for Covid-19: 'It’s meant to prevent severe forms of TB'

Professor Salim Abdool Karim said more research must be conducted to determine whether the BCG vaccine does have a positive impact in the countries where the vaccinations have been administered.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim said more research must be conducted to determine whether the BCG vaccine does have a positive impact in the countries where the vaccinations have been administered.
Image: TREVOR SAMSON

Professor Salim Abdool Karim is sceptical that the BCG vaccine can have an impact on the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

Karim said the BCG vaccine was given to protect people from severe forms of tuberculosis (TB).

“It doesn’t prevent tuberculosis, but it prevents severe forms of tuberculosis,” Karim said on Monday evening during a presentation on the technical aspects relating to the Covid-19 response.

Karim said a research paper from scientists in New York compared countries which have universal BCG policies with countries that do not have the same policies.

It found that countries with BCG vaccine policies have a lesser “burden” of the coronavirus infection.

However, Karim said this was possibly a flawed study, but added it was an “interesting hypothesis”.

Karim said it was more likely the countries were merely on a different trajectory.

“Somebody should do research on patients who have had BCG vaccinations and patients who have not had the vaccine.

“I asked our colleagues in China whether they saw any difference in patients who had BCG,  and the answer was 'no'.

“Is BCG helping us? I would love that to be the case but I’m really sceptical that it has any influence. I will wait for the data to make up my mind firmly one way or the other,” Karim said.


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