Many people are wary of coronavirus vaccines because they were tested for just a few months before being rolled out to the public under Operation Warp Speed.
Normally, vaccines are go through rigorous clinical trials that last 10 years or even longer.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reveals that there may be an effective alternative in the fight to stop the pandemic: a very old vaccine with a proven track record of safety.
The BCG vaccine has been used for more than a century to prevent tuberculosis. It’s also used to treat bladder cancer.
In the new research, scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles tested 6,679 healthcare workers for coronavirus antibodies to find out if they had been infected. They also documented which vaccinations the subjects had received throughout their lives.
The BCG Vaccine Provides Some Protection Against Coronavirus, Study Finds
Subjects who had a BCG vaccination—even if it was many years earlier—were 40% less likely to test positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
And the study found that when BCG-vaccinated subjects did get COVID-19, their symptoms were often less severe than those who hadn’t gotten the shot.
The researchers concluded: “A history of BCG vaccination confers a protective effect against infection with coronavirus and decreases the presence of self-reported COVID-19 symptoms.”
Vaccines typically work by helping your body create antibodies against a specific pathogen. So it may seem strange that a vaccine for one germ would fight a different one.
But the researchers found that the BCG vaccine combats coronavirus not with antibodies but by stimulating something called “innate immunity.” This is the body’s first line of defense against disease. It includes natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages. Unlike antibodies, these immune cells fight many different types of viruses.
Because tuberculosis is rare in the U.S., the BCG vaccine is not routinely given to American children. However, it is mandatory in parts of South America, eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.
A review in the journal Molecular Medicine found that countries with mandatory childhood BCG vaccination have lower COVID death rates.
The vaccine was developed at the Pasteur Institute in France. It was first used in 1921. It is considered safe, with no long-term side effects.
Unlike coronavirus vaccines, BCG shots are widely available, inexpensive, and they have a proven track record.
At least three placebo-controlled clinical trials are now underway to test the BCG vaccine against coronavirus. If they are successful, the BCG vaccine may become an alternative to coronavirus shots.
Dr. Moshe Arditi was co-senior author of the Cedars-Sinai study. “It would be wonderful if one of the oldest vaccines that we have could help defeat the world’s newest pandemic.”
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