Yesterday [May 4], a vaccine trial began at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. Approximately 250 South African healthcare workers were administered booster shots for the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which is a TB vaccine. The study will test whether it can reduce the probability of coronavirus and limit the severity of its symptoms.

Duncan McDonald, head of business development and marketing at TASK, a clinical research centre in Bellville who is running the trial, told AFP that the first participant was vaccinated yesterday.

TASK nurse injects the first participant, watched closely by study leader Dr Caryn Upton and Professor Andreas Diacon, founder and CEO of TASK.
Source: TASK press release

“The aim of the study is to determine if BCG (re)vaccination reduces the probability of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and/or the severity of symptoms of Covid-19 disease,” said TASK.

The vaccine is about 100 years old, and was created at the Pasteur Institute in France. It is one of the longest standing vaccines in the world. While this vaccine is mainly used to protect children against TB, it can also be used to fight other respiratory tract infections in kids and adults.

“South Africa does vaccinate all new-borns with BCG. Re-vaccinating adults could help reduce the consequences of this pandemic,” TASK added.

The trial is using 500 healthcare professionals in hopes of learning more about what the vaccine can do. When the initial 250 healthcare professionals were administered with BCG booster shots, another 250 were given a placebo.

“After vaccination TASK will follow up regularly with telephonic or electronic interviews to capture events such as SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, respiratory tract infection or hospitalisation. The study team will regularly run statistical tests to see if an advantage of BCG re-vaccination can be shown. There will be an independent committee looking at the results. If there is a robust enough positive signal the results will be made public,” they said.

Picture: Unsplash

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