A correlation has been found countries who have used the BCG vaccine and the rate of coronavirus death

An Irish urologist is among of team of researchers who say that the existing Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine may help prevent the coronavirus.

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The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine is administered to prevent tuberculosis (TB), but research in recent years has found that it helps prevent other diseases such as measles and malaria. While Ireland stopped routinely administering BCG in 2015, it is still widely administered in poorer and developing countries. The US has never had a universal BCG vaccination policy.

Paul K. Hegarty, a consultant urologic surgeon at Mater Hospital in Dublin, worked alongside Ashish Kamat, Helen Zafirakis, Andrew DiNardo for the report entitled “BCG vaccination may be protective against Covid-19" which was published on March 30.

The report said: “Mechanistic evidence exists to suggest that vaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), can have protective effects against viral infection."

Using data collected between March 9 and 24 from 178 countries, the team found that “the incidence of Covid-19 was 38.4 per million in countries with BCG vaccination compared to 358.4 per million in the absence of such a program. 

“The death rate was 4.28/million in countries with BCG programs compared to 40/million in countries without such a program.”

They concluded: “Countries with national program of whole population BCG vaccination appear to have a lower incidence and death rate from Covid-19. This may be due to the known immunological benefits of BCG vaccination. 

“In the absence of a specific vaccination against Covid-19, population-based BCG vaccination may have a role in reducing the impact of this disease and is being studied in a prospective trial.”

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In a discussion about the group's findings, Hegarty said the results were "very striking" but cautioned that there could be "many confounding factors" to the results.

You can listen Hegarty, DiNardo, and Kamat further discuss their findings here:

Hegarty has since told The Irish Times that a coronavirus vaccine “is expected to take a minimum of 12 to 18 months to develop. In the meantime, repurposing existing and safe vaccines that induce non-specific immune benefits may be an additional tool.”

The New York Times reports that a clinical study that involves administering the BCG vaccine to some patients and a placebo to others has been launched in Australia as well as The Netherlands.

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