A BCG vaccine, which is primarily used against tuberculosis and given to newborns, has been improved by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII). It will be used in human clinical trials soon to test its efficacy in improving overall immunity against COVID-19.
SII, the largest manufacturer of vaccines against polio and diphtheria, has received a go-ahead from the Drug Controller General of India to start human clinical trials. Some sites have been identified, where 6,000-7,000 participants will undergo the trials.
“The new and improved recombinant one (VPM 1002)…will be used in the clinical trial. Many believe that countries where the BCG vaccine has been given have fewer COVID-19 fatalities and lesser severity of cases. Hence, testing the BCG vaccine’s ability in improving overall immunity is crucial before we prescribe and recommend the same. A clinical trial will be launched soon and it should be over within two months,” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.
“… we cannot arrive at any conclusion before the clinical study is over, nor do we want to make any claims,” he added.
Researchers say the vaccine will be initially given to two groups — healthcare workers and family contacts of patients with COVID-19. Swab samples will be taken from all of them to check if they are negative for the disease before the BCG shots are given.
Dr Sanjay Lalwani, medical director of Bharati Hospital, Pune, said there will be stimulation of the immunological system, which may help prevent the person from getting complications related to the disease.