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COVID-19: Study to Find Effectiveness of BCG Vaccine in Elders

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The ICMR is undertaking a study in Mumbai to evaluate whether the BCG (Bacille Calmette- Guerin) vaccine, primarily used against tuberculosis, is effective in preventing COVID-19 in the elderly population, the city civic body said on Friday.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said that Seth G S Medical College, civic-run KEM Hospital, and the public health department of the BMC will jointly conduct the study for the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

“The study will also look at the degree of severity of the disease and development of immunity using immunological markers,” the BMC said.

The civic body said there is evidence to suggest that the BCG vaccine, normally given to children for immunity against tuberculosis, has a protective effect against other respiratory tract infections, including viral diseases.

According to the BMC, the study will include elderly individuals between 60-75 years of age who have not suffered from COVID-19, do not have cancer and are not immunocompromised (having a weak immune system).

“The BCG vaccine has offered hope to the elderly, and if found effective, it will help bring down morbidity and mortality in elderly population,” said the BMC, which is spearheading Mumbai’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trial will be primarily undertaken in F-south and G-south civic wards in Central Mumbai, where elderly individuals will be encouraged to participate in the study.

“Number of participants expected to be enrolled in the trial is 250 and the number can go up if the trial demands,” the civic body said.

The BCG vaccine will be administered after obtaining informed consent from participants who will then be closely monitored for 6 months, the BMC said.

“Necessary approval for the trial has been obtained,” it said.

The ICMR has undertaken similar studies in COVID-19 hotspots in multiple cities, including Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Jodhpur and New Delhi.

According to the BMC, the COVID-19 epidemic worldwide has shown that elderly persons are affected more and tend to suffer severely. Also, death rate in the age group above 60 is substantially high.

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