World Health Organization (WHO) cautious of using BCG vaccine for COVID-19
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health
- The World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted a few critical issues over the use of BCG vaccine for COVID-19 recently.
- They emphasized the importance of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of the vaccine to understand its safety and efficacy before using it on healthcare workers.
- Randomised controlled trials using BCG vaccine are under way in the Netherlands and Australia to find out whether the vaccine can reduce the incidence and severity of COVID-19 among healthcare workers.
- The reasons as to why countries should wait for the results of the BCG vaccine RCTs are:
- The association of fewer COVID-19 cases in countries that have a universal BCG vaccination programme is based on population rather than individual data.
- The beneficial effects of the BCG vaccine given at birth are “unlikely” to reduce the severity of COVID-19 decades later.
- It is already known that the virus induces cytokine storm in some patients, leading to further complications — and even death.
- BCG vaccination is likely to give a false sense of security to people, especially during the pandemic, especially if it is not effective against the novel coronavirus.
- Using the vaccine without evidence of its benefits could further decrease vaccine supply to protect children against TB in high-risk countries.
Important value additions:
Randomised controlled trials
- These are quantitative, comparative, controlled experiments in which investigators study two or more interventions in a series of individuals who receive them in random order.
- The RCT is one of the simplest and most powerful tools in clinical research.
- Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is used against tuberculosis (TB).
- In countries where tuberculosis or leprosy is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies at the time of birth.
Cytokine storm syndrome (CSS)
- It is a form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) that can be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections and certain drugs.
- It occurs when large numbers of white blood cells are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which in turn activate yet more white blood cells.