A tuberculosis vaccine routinely given to children in countries with high rates of that bacterial disease might be helping to reduce deaths from COVID-19, researchers reported on Thursday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
After accounting for differences in factors that might affect vulnerability to the virus - such as income, education, health services and age distribution - the researchers found that countries with higher rates of Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccinations for tuberculosis had lower peak mortality rates from COVID-19.
A good example was Germany, which had different vaccine plans before East Germany and West Germany were unified in 1990, the researchers said. COVID-19 mortality rates among senior citizens are nearly three times higher in western Germany than in eastern Germany, where more older people received the vaccine as infants, they found.
Study co-author Luis Escobar of Virginia Tech said in a press statement that BCG vaccines have been shown to protect against other viral respiratory illnesses. Escobar cautioned that the new findings are preliminary. The BCG vaccine is currently being tested for preventing COVID-19 in healthcare workers.