In October, Fiocruz and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, in Australia, will begin testing the BCG vaccine (normally used to prevent tuberculosis) on healthcare professionals, to verify the protection of the immunizer against Covid-19 as well. The trial, which was initially expected to be carried out only in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, will be expanded to the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Coordinated in Brazil by Fiocruz researchers Julio Croda and Margareth Dalcolmo, the research was approved by the National Committee of Ethics in Research (Conep). About 3,000 healthcare professionals in the country, who have not had Covid-19, will be vaccinated. The study will be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“All volunteers will be tested to check whether they have the virus in their body. Those approved for the study will receive the Danish BCG strain. The vaccine is already on its way to Mato Grosso do Sul”, says Dalcolmo, who coordinates the study in Rio de Janeiro. “We will be following these people for up to a year, during which interim protection analysis will be made, that is, intermediary evaluations recommended for long-term studies”.
Responsible for coordinating the study in Mato Grosso do Sul, researcher Julio Croda highlighted that the clinical trial is in its phase 3 already, the stage where a significant number of people are tested. “We will be calling these people on a weekly basis and they will have to inform us whether they experienced Covid-19 symptoms. This is a quantitative research that is in its last stage, when it is evaluated whether the BCG vaccine is effective or not against Covid-19”, said Croda.
In addition to Brazil, Australia, Spain, and the United Kingdom are also part of the research through the University of Melbourne, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO). The Australian researchers based themselves on existing studies that show that the BCG vaccine is efficient against other viral respiratory infections.
“It is important to highlight that we still do not have proof that BCG is effective against Covid-19 or how long it keeps the body immune against other respiratory diseases. This means people should not take the vaccine in the belief it can prevent the new coronavirus”, warns Julio Croda.
Available in the Brazilian Public Health System (SUS, in the Portuguese Acronym), the BCG vaccine has been compulsory for newborns in Brazil since 1976. It can, however, be administered to children up to four years old. The vaccine protects children against the most serious forms of tuberculosis.