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Tuberculosis vaccine does not protect elderly against COVID, says a research

The BCG vaccine has the additional advantage of inducing a defence through the innate immune system that is broader than just against Tuberculosis.

Health Desk Edited By: Health Desk New Delhi Published on: February 03, 2023 12:37 IST
Tuberculosis vaccine
Image Source : FREEPIK Tuberculosis vaccine (Representational Image)

The Tuberculosis vaccine does not protect the elderly against COVID infection. Also known as Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, in the early phase of the corona pandemic, there was a major medical and societal need for a vaccine that could protect against (the consequences of) corona infection. This applied in particular to elderly people with comorbidities because it had quickly become clear that they were at increased risk of a severe course of infection. 

This vaccine - the most widely administered vaccine in the world - has been used in many countries for decades to prevent tuberculosis (TB). The BCG vaccine has the additional advantage of inducing a defence through the innate immune system that is broader than just against TB. Moreover, a few small studies had indicated that this vaccine could potentially protect elderly people from respiratory infections - particularly infections of viral origin. 

BCG vaccine offers no protection 

Investigator and first author of the article Eva Koekenbier MD (Program Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, UMC Utrecht) summarizes the results of the study: "The main outcome of the BCG-PRIME study was the occurrence of COVID-19. The analysis showed that disease manifestations of COVID-19 occurred as frequently (hazard ratio 1.12; 95% confidence interval 0.87-1.44) in elderly people with co-morbidities who had received the BCG vaccine (129 out of 3,058 participants) as in those who had received placebo (115 out of 3,054 participants). We also found no difference between the two groups in terms of the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the number of respiratory infections requiring medical treatment, the number of serious adverse events and mortality." 

The study

A total of 6,112 elderly with co-morbidities aged 60 years and older participated in the placebo-controlled BCG-PRIME study between September 2020 and December 2021. Participants were recruited through hospital wards, outpatient clinics and anticoagulation services. Patients were monitored for 6 months after vaccination via their own hospital. 

The Tuberculosis vaccine does not protect the elderly against COVID infection. Also known as Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, in the early phase of the corona pandemic, there was a major medical and societal need for a vaccine that could protect against (the consequences of) corona infection. This applied in particular to elderly people with comorbidities because it had quickly become clear that they were at increased risk of a severe course of infection. 

This is the most widely administered vaccine in the world - has been used in many countries for decades to prevent tuberculosis (TB). The BCG vaccine has the additional advantage of inducing a defence through the innate immune system that is broader than just against TB. Moreover, a few small studies had indicated that this vaccine could potentially protect elderly people from respiratory infections - particularly infections of viral origin. 

BCG vaccine offers no protection 

Investigator and first author of the article Eva Koekenbier MD (Program Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, UMC Utrecht) summarizes the results of the study: "The main outcome of the BCG-PRIME study was the occurrence of COVID-19. The analysis showed that disease manifestations of COVID-19 occurred as frequently (hazard ratio 1.12; 95% confidence interval 0.87-1.44) in elderly people with co-morbidities who had received the BCG vaccine (129 out of 3,058 participants) as in those who had received placebo (115 out of 3,054 participants). We also found no difference between the two groups in terms of the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the number of respiratory infections requiring medical treatment, the number of serious adverse events and mortality." 

The study

A total of 6,112 elderly with co-morbidities aged 60 years and older participated in the placebo-controlled BCG-PRIME study between September 2020 and December 2021. Participants were recruited through hospital wards, outpatient clinics and anticoagulation services. Patients were monitored for 6 months after vaccination via their own hospital. 

The study had two primary endpoints:

a) the number of cases of proven COVID-19
b) the number of cases of respiratory tract infections for which medical treatment took place. 

The study was designed by UMC Utrecht, with support from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. Interim results were released through a press release in January 2021.

a) the number of cases of proven COVID-19
b) the number of cases of respiratory tract infections for which medical treatment took place. 

The study was designed by UMC Utrecht, with support from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. Interim results were released through a press release in January 2021.

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(With ANI inputs)

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