BCG Vaccination May be Protective Against Covid-19

Covid-19 virus has infected over 300,000 people and led to over 13,000 deaths in its first 3 months; yet the pattern of development is not uniform.. Mechanistic evidence exists to suggest that vaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), can have protective effects against viral infection. Herein we examine whether national programs which use BCG vaccination with the aim of reducing tuberculosis infections could account for the differential incidence and mortality observed in Covid-19 between various countries.

We accessed and collated data from three sources - accessed on March 24th 2020 - for the analysis: The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for the number of cases and deaths attributed to Covid-19; The World Atlas of BCG for list of countries describing programs of BCG vaccination; and for the population of all countries.

178 countries had data from all three sources and formed the basis of our analysis. Current national programs of BCG vaccination exist in 131 countries; 21 countries have no current program of national BCG vaccination; and for 26 countries status is unknown. Over preceding 15 days, incidence of Covid-19 was 38.4 per million in countries with BCG vaccination compared to 358.4 per million in the absence of such a program. The death rate was 4.28/million in countries with BCG programs compared to 40/million in countries without such a program.

Countries with national program of whole population BCG vaccination appear to have a lower incidence and death rate from Covid-19. This may be due to the known immunological benefits of BCG vaccination. In the absence of a specific vaccination against Covid-19, population-based BCG vaccination may have a role in reducing the impact of this disease and is being studied in a prospective trial.

Authors: Paul K Hegarty, MB BCh BAO, FRCSI, FRCS, M Med Sc, MCh, MBA, National Health Service, Ashish M Kamat, MD, MBBS, FACS, University of Texas MD Medical Center, Andrew Dinardo, Baylor College of Medicine, Helen Zafirakis, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

Citation: Hegarty, Paul, Ashish Kamat, Helen Zafirakis, and Andrew Dinardo. BCG Vaccination May Be Protective against Covid-19, 2020.

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