The National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis has been entrusted to test the pilot project among patients between 60-95 years of age.

Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar instructing the officials on the measures that needs to be taken to step up the fight against coronavirus in a Government Hospital in Chennai
news Medicine Wednesday, July 15, 2020 - 17:32

The Tamil Nadu government, as part of a trial, will be administering BCG vaccine to a group of elderly people between the ages 60 and 95. The state wants to study if this can possibly reduce the coronavirus mortality rate in them. The National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis is expected to start the pilot programme, which has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

The BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) vaccine protects against tuberculosis in children, and has been administered in India to children for decades. It was in the news back in April as well, when a study argued that countries that have a universal BCG vaccination policy are seeing a lower death rate than those that don’t. Other studies since have also suggested a similar relationship between the two.

In a tweet, Tamil Nadu Health Minister Dr Vijayabaskar said, “BCG vaccine shall be administered on a trial basis for adults aged 60-95, ordered by Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Edppadi K Palaniswami. This is aimed at reducing the COVID-19 mortality rate in senior people. The National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis will start the pilot program soon.”

However, there are people who have expressed reservations about this move. Madhu Pai of the McGill International TB Centre tweeted that no one has any experience of giving the BCG vaccine to the elderly. “Without proving safety, no program should be vaccinating elderly people. There is no direct evidence proving that BCG will reduce COVID-19 mortality,” he said.

He added, “There are many randomised trials underway in Netherland, Australia, USA, India and South Asia to see if BCG can protect COVID-19. So, we need to wait for trial results before rushing to give BCG. The World Health Organisation does not recommend BCG for COVID-19 at this time.”





When the study finding the inverse correlation between COVID-19 mortality and BCG vaccine had come out earlier, experts had cautioned against setting too much store by the relationship between the two, arguing that this is just a hypothesis at this point. Only actual data which could prove that those who have been given BCG vaccine are less prone to coronavirus can be counted as actual proof.

Read: Did BCG vaccination reduce COVID-19 impact on some countries? US study suggests so

Last week, Tamil Nadu government also announced that the state will soon start a plasma bank in Rajiv Gandhi Government College Hospital. The plasma bank to treat coronavirus patients is the second of its kind in India. Before Tamil Nadu, only New Delhi had plasma banks. The plasma therapy was provided to 20 patients of RGGGH, of whom 18 recovered and returned home on Saturday, said the Health Minister.

Till Tuesday, 2,099 patients have succumbed due to coronavirus in Tamil Nadu. In Chennai alone, 1,295 people succumbed to the infection.