Coronavirus in Mumbai: Old citizens for new COVID-19 experiment
BL Soni

Soon, the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital and Medical College plans to embark on a clinical trial of the anti-tuberculosis(TB) Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine for treating Covid-19 patients. This comes after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) selected KEM for the trial, to be conducted among 600 senior citizens uninfected with SARS-CoV-2 virus. The hospital is awaiting the green signal from the state ethics committee.

Approximately 1,500 healthy volunteers above 60 years of age will participate in the study to be carried out in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. “The objective is to see if the shots can prevent the occurrence of coronavirus, reduce the severity of the infection and mortality rate among the elderly people residing in hotspots,” said a senior doctor.

Health officials said the multi-centric study would assess whether the BCG vaccine, used against tuberculosis, could prevent the occurrence of coronavirus among elderly individuals residing in hotspots. "The study which will be carried out at six sites and elderly people not affected by coronavirus will be given the BCG vaccine, the same one being administered to newborns as part of the national immunisation programme for more than 50 years in the country, will be used in this study,” said a scientist from the ICMR.

The BCG vaccine is routinely administered routinely to all newborns to prevent tuberculosis (TB), an infection caused by bacteria that mainly affects the lungs.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said volunteers must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for participation in the study. The volunteers would be monitored closely for a period of six months after vaccination, he said.

“There will be follow-ups on those vaccinated and in the event some of them get infected with Covid-19 later on, it will be assessed whether the BCG vaccination stood them in good stead as compared to their peers who were not vaccinated,” he said.

However, a health expert said that as of now, the BCG vaccine was not recommended for older people. “This is a special situation in which they should have permission from the persons to administer the vaccine. There should be informed consent,” he said.

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