Is there any relationship between the BCG vaccine and the coronavirus death rate?

This is part 21 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Clinical trials are underway to discover if the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis affects the coronavirus death rate

The BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccine is primarily used to prevent tuberculosis. It is made from a weakened tuberculosis bacteria in cows, which is similar to the tuberculosis bacteria in humans.
In Japan, all babies undergo a BCG vaccination. Policies vary between countries and regions. The United States and Italy do not have a universal BCG vaccination program.

Some researchers outside Japan have pointed out that places with routine BCG vaccination programs have fewer deaths from the coronavirus. Clinical trials are underway in Australia and the Netherlands to study whether BCG vaccinations prevent coronavirus infections and/or limit the severity of symptoms.

On April 3, the Japanese Society for Vaccinology presented its view on the matter.

The effectiveness of the BCG vaccine is unconfirmed

The Society says that the vaccine’s effectiveness against the virus is yet to be confirmed scientifically and, for the moment, it does not recommend it as a preventive measure.

The Society also reports that some people in an older generation that did not receive BCG vaccinations are requesting to be vaccinated as a protection against the virus. It maintains that BCG is a vaccine for infants, and its efficacy and safety for the elderly have not been confirmed.

The Society’s position is that an increase in the use of the vaccine outside its intended application is to be avoided as that may disrupt the stable supply for infants.

This information is accurate as of June 17, 2020.