South Africa begins Covid-19 BCG vaccine trial

 ·5 May 2020

TASK, a medical trials centre in Cape Town, has administered a Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine to 250 healthcare workers as part of a clinical study to help fight off the effects of Covid-19.

TASK is a social enterprise committed to developing, testing and progressing novelty medicines, vaccines and diagnostics in various medical therapeutic areas – most notably in anti-tuberculosis drugs.

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.

The group noted that the pandemic seriously challenges the available hospital capacity in South Africa. Strategies to prevent staff absenteeism in an over-run healthcare system are, therefore, desperately needed to safeguard continuous patient care.

“Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is used as a vaccine against tuberculosis in children, but it also has non-specific protective effects against other respiratory tract infections in children and adults.

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

The primary objective of the trial is to find out if BCG (re)vaccination reduces disease severity, hospital admissions and death in frontline workers with direct patient contact during the pandemic phase of Covid-19.

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,” it said.

This study is currently funded by TASK, and limited to 500 participants.

New cases 

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 7,220 positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

This is up by 437 from the 6,783 Covid-19 cases announced on Sunday, and from 447 announced on Saturday evening – the highest 24-hour tally to date in the country.

Dr Mkhize said in a statement on Monday (4 May), that a further seven people have died from the virus, taking total deaths to 138. Six of these deaths were reported in the Western Cape, with the seventh death reported in KZN.

A total of 257,541 tests have been completed, with 11,794 tests completed in the last 24 hours. 2,746 recoveries have been reported so far.

Read: 7,220 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa – as deaths climb to 138

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