“This is the only vaccine in the world that can be given to combat COVID-19 right now,” claimed Jeffrey D. Cirillo, a professor of microbial pathogenesis and immunology at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center, speaking of the tuberculosis vaccine to the Washington Post.
Cirillo is currently leading a trial of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which he noted has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and has a long history of being used safely.
Azra Raza, a professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, told the outlet that she was “shocked” to learn about the comparatively low COVID-19 death rates in countries like Pakistan, where BCG vaccination is common, as opposed to the death rate in the US.
“It’s not like they’re not getting the infection,” she said. “The rate [of positive infections] is high. But they’re just not dying. It is raging through, but they’re not dying of it.”
According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard, at least 2,036,429 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified and 114,195 related deaths have been registered in the US. In Pakistan, 125,933 COVID-19 cases have been logged, and at least 2,463 deaths have been registered.
Raza explained that the BCG vaccine can improve one’s ability to fight off pathogens.
At the same time, a study of COVID-19 deaths in Israel came to a different conclusion, according to the outlet. The research showed no significant difference in the rates of death between those who had received the BCG vaccine and those who had not.
“Facts have a nasty habit of overturning circumstantial evidence,” Raza said, adding that the “only way to prove it is through future prospective trials.”
Konstantin Chumakov, associate director of research at the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, told the Post that he received the oral polio vaccine every fall when he was growing up in the Soviet Union. He claimed that the drug, administered to him by his vaccine researcher parents, provided him with broad protection during influenza season.
The Soviet-born scientist has teamed up with Robert Gallo, an HIV researcher and the director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, to raise money for research on using the polio vaccine against COVID-19.
If either vaccine yields positive results, the already-approved drugs could be used to lessen the severity of cases during a possible second wave of novel coronavirus infections.