Israeli research finds TB shot may add COVID-19 protection

People who received a tuberculosis vaccination in the past 15 years were found less likely to contract COVID-19, a new Israeli study shows.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A team of Israeli researchers looked at numbers from around the world for vaccinations against tuberculosis and discovered possible additional protection against COVID-19 for people under 24 years of age, Ben Gurion University announced Monday.

It was not a medical doctor who made the discovery, but rather Dr. Nadav Rappoport of the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering, an expert in the use o​f medical and clinical Big Data to improve medicine and health systems .

Rappoport collaborated with colleagues from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to analyze the correlation between countries’ policies for the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine that prevents tuberculosis and COVID-19 outcomes in those same countries.

They discovered that there is a correlation between BCG vaccination and protection against the coronavirus – not developing COVID-19, reducing infection rates or reducing death rates. The added protection of a TB shot was significant among those 24 years old and younger who had received the tuberculosis vaccination in the last 15 years. There was no effect among older adults who had received the BCG vaccine years ago.

The BCG vaccine is still widely administered, however, some countries have stopped inoculating their entire populations with it because tuberculosis is now so rare in those regions.

Rappoport and his colleagues analyzed normalized data from 55 countries around the world, which comprise 62.9% of the world’s population. To normalize the data, they included countries with populations of more than three million.

As the coronavirus pandemic reached various countries at different dates, they aligned countries by the first date at which the country reached a death rate of 0.5 deaths per million or higher. They took into consideration demographic, economic, pandemic-restriction-related and health-related country-based variables.

Their data revealed the BCG vaccine was consistently in the top 2 effects across 55 countries.

To ascertain whether other vaccines also influenced COVID-19 outcomes, they conducted the same analysis for the measles and rubella vaccines, but found that those vaccines did not have a significant association with COVID-19.

Other epidemiological studies have shown the effect of the BCG vaccine beyond tuberculosis, but scientists do not yet know why the vaccine has such a positive effect.

“Our findings suggest exploring BCG vaccine protocols in the context of the current pandemic could be worthwhile,” Rappoport said.