BCG vaccine COVID-19 trial starts on SA healthcare workers

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Hundreds of South African health workers were given a century-old tuberculosis vaccine on Monday of last week in a trial to see whether the venerable formula can protect against the coronavirus, reports The Times. Devised at France's legendary Pasteur Institute 100 years ago, the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is one of the world's oldest and most trusted immunisations. "We vaccinated the first participant this morning," Duncan McDonald, head of business development and marketing at a clinical research organisation called TASK, is quoted in the report as saying.

Trials started at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, where BCG booster shots were administered to 250 health-care workers, while another 250 received a dummy formula or placebo.

"There are observations that this BCG vaccine does something to the immune system that we don't really understand," said TASK founder Professor Andreas Diacon.

Diacon, an expert in internal medicine and pulmonology at Tygerberg and a Stellenbosch University professor, said the trials focused on health-care workers as "we believe that they will be exposed most". The plan is to ramp up the trials to up to 3,000 health-care workers in Cape Town. Participants will be observed for at least a year.

Similar BCG clinical trials are being conducted in the Netherlands, Australia and France, the report says.

Full report in The Times

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