Did the BCG Vaccine Save Bulgaria From The Worst-Case Scenario of COVID-19?

Health | June 23, 2020, Tuesday // 12:24|  views

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In Bulgaria, the BCG vaccine has been mandatory since 1951. The country is one of the largest producers of BCG in the world and one of the four WHO suppliers. And the Bulgarians are "the most BCG-vaccined nation". Does this help against Covid-19?

The Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine, abbreviated BCG, was discovered by French researchers Albert Calmett and Camille Guerin as an effective vaccine against tuberculosis, an inflammatory lung disease that kills 1.5 million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. organization (WHO).

In search of an effective treatment for the new Covid-19 disease, experts in many countries - from Australia to the United States and from Europe to South Africa - are conducting clinical trials of the BCG vaccine. They must show whether it also offers protection against the new coronavirus. Last month, the WHO announced that there was no evidence that the vaccine protected people from becoming infected with Covid-19.

Nevertheless, Bulgarian scientists point out that the widespread vaccination of the population in recent years, along with timely measures taken now, has helped the Balkan state cope well with the coronavirus pandemic, wrote DW. The agency quotes Prof. Bogdan Petrunov as saying to BNT that the BCG vaccine "causes a powerful immune reaction in the body". "While we wait for an effective treatment or vaccine to be found against the new coronavirus, we must rely on our immunity," said the professor, who specializes in immunology and allergology.

Bulgaria is among the leading producers

Neonatologist Valentina Gerginova, who has been vaccinating newborns with BCG for over 30 years, points out that people with BCG vaccine are more susceptible to any bacterial and viral infections, and that they may be better protected against the new coronavirus. 

AFP further reminds that Bulgaria is among the leading producers of BCG vaccine in the world, and that it exports it to 140 countries. A total of 22 pharmaceutical companies around the world produce the vaccine, and in the EU there are only three - one of them is the Bulgarian state company Bul Bio. Bulgaria also supplies BCG vaccines to the WHO - for the UN program to combat tuberculosis in Africa and Asia - along with India, Japan and Denmark.

Bulgaria has extensive experience with BCG

The BCG vaccine was first tested in Bulgaria in the distant 1926, AFP also points out. In 1949 the country began mass production in a state laboratory, the predecessor of today's company "Bull Bio".

Since 1951, the BCG vaccine has been mandatory in Bulgaria and is given to all newborns. Thus, in the last 30 years the cases of turbeculosis in the country have drastically decreased. "We are the most BCG country in the world," Todor Kantardzhiev, director of the National Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, said in an interview a few months ago.

In Bulgaria, however, the number of tuberculosis patients is still twice as high as the EU average. The reason for this, according to AFP, is the following: desperate poverty in some parts of the country./DW

 

 

Map reveals how BCG vaccine could prevent coronavirus – as countries with compulsory jabs report fewer deaths, reported The Sun:

THIS map shows how countries with compulsory BCG vaccination programmes have seemingly escaped the worst of the coronavirus crisis.

Seven countries in the western Balkans - with a total population of 22 million - have reported just 21,145 confirmed cases and 775 deaths.


@The Sun

That's despite their close proximity to Italy - once Europe's Covid epicentre - and having more complicated and outdated healthcare systems.

But experts have noted these countries also have universal mandatory Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccinations - something that the UK scrapped in 2005.

The jab was developed almost a century ago to increase immunity to the bacterial lung infection tuberculosis.

Scientists have long said that the vaccine - which costs as little as £30 per dose - also appears to trigger an immune response to other infectious diseases.

And amid the outbreak of Covid-19, they began to wonder whether it could offer any protection against the new bug.

Now experts claim to have found a link between countries that have mandatory BCG vaccinations and fewer deaths and cases of coronavirus.

Predrag Kon, Serbia's state epidemiologist, told The Times: "This is something that we have seen happening - that people who have received the BCG experience a form [of Covid-19] that is easier.

"These are just impressions, there is still not enough evidence to know for sure.

"But it does seem that the countries with universal BCG vaccinations have had an easier experience."

Compulsory jab

Many European countries made the BCG vaccine mandatory in the early 1950s, with pupils aged between ten and 14 given a shot every year.

But the UK - along with most of western Europe - ditched mass vaccination in the 2000s.

Instead, those who were considered most at risk - including babies or children who live with infected relatives - were targeted.

The jab was never given universally in Italy or the US but is still routinely administered in eastern Europe, most of Africa, Asia and South America.

How countries with compulsory BCG vaccinations have been affected by coronavirus

These are the number of cases and deaths from coronavirus in the western Balkan countries where BCG vaccination programmes are mandatory.

It also shows the percentage of people who have had the jab.

SERBIA

Cases: 11,430

Deaths: 244

BCG coverage: 98%

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

Cases: 2,524

Deaths: 154

BCG coverage: 95%

CROATIA

Cases: 2,246

*Deaths: 107 (Originally The Sun wrote 547 Deaths in Croatia, but the number is 107 !)

BCG coverage: 98%

NORTH MACEDONIA

Cases: 2,315

Deaths: 140

BCG coverage: 97%

BULGARIA

Cases: 2,538

Deaths: 144

BCG coverage: 96%

ROMANIA

Cases: 19,398

Deaths: 1,279

BCG coverage: 96%

Compare that with the UK where compulsory BCG vaccinations were stopped in 2005.

The most recent figures show that the number of coronavirus cases has hit 276,332 while the death toll stands at 39,045.

But researchers believe that it may protect against respiratory diseases other than tuberculosis.

As SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes Covid-19 - is a respiratory infection, experts were curious as to whether the BCG vaccine could offer any protection.

A preliminary study,  posted on medRxiv - a site for unpublished medical research, has found a link between countries where the jab was compulsory and fewer Covid cases.

While it's only a correlation, clinicians in at least six countries have started running trials which involve giving frontline health workers and elderly people the vaccine to see if it can provide some level of protection.

Early study finds link

Gonzalo Otazu, assistant professor at the New York Institute of Technology, began research after noticing the low number of cases in Japan.

The country had reported some of the earliest confirmed cases of the bug outside of China - but hadn’t introduced lockdown measures.

He was aware of other studies showing the BCG jab had provided protection against other diseases, so his team started to look at different countries vaccination policies.

They then compared the number of confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 and say they found a strong correlation.

Among their findings, the team pointed out that countries with a high number of cases, such as the US and Italy, the BCG vaccine was only offered to those deemed at risk.

In the UK, Spain, France and Germany, the vaccine policies were ended decades ago.

Prof Otazu said that in China, where the pandemic began, has a BCG jab scheme but it wasn't well adhered to until 1976.

But both Japan and South Korea, where cases have remained relatively well-controlled, have compulsory BCG vaccination programmes in place.

Experts have cautioned the team's findings as they have not yet been peer-reviewed.

The World Health Organisation has also warned that there is no solid evidence to prove that the BCG vaccine protects against Covid-19.

Ongoing trials

Trials of the jab are ongoing in at least six countries including Australia, where some 4,000 health workers will be given the BCG vaccine as part of a six month trial.

Researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne said: “Although originally developed against tuberculosis, and still given to over 130 million babies annually for that purpose, BCG also boosts humans’ ‘frontline’ immunity, training it to respond to germs with greater intensity."

Some participating workers will be vaccinated against seasonal influenza and TB, while others receive the flu shot alone in order to set a baseline for comparison.

Researchers will take blood samples at the start and end of the trial to determine who contracted coronavirus, and participants will log any symptoms./The Sun

 

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