A senior Vietnamese doctor has advised against administering the BCG tuberculosis vaccine, which is being trialed against COVID-19 in some countries including Vietnam, to adults under any circumstances.
Vietnam’s National Lung Hospital director Nguyen Viet Nhung warned against giving the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which is primarily used in tuberculosis treatment, to adults could result in unwanted reactions as he spoke to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday
BCG was first introduced in the 1920s as a defense against TB — a bacterial lung infection.
According to Nhung, there is no scientific evidence of the vaccine protecting people from novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
He said scientists around the world have recently noticed that countries which routinely administer the BCG vaccine to newborns have reported lower numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths than those which either have discontinued their national immunization program or never had one in the first place.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a scientific briefing published on April 12 that it does not recommend BCG vaccination for the prevention of COVID-19 as there is no sufficient evidence that the vaccine results in a decrease in infections and deaths from the disease.
Globally, two separate clinical trials are being carried out in the Netherlands and Australia to test if the BCG vaccine may lead to improved protection against COVID-19 or milder infection.
In Vietnam, the Ministry of Health has asked the National Lung Hospital to cooperate with the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in conducting research on this front.
Some 800 health workers at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi and the Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases will participate in the research, with a number of them receiving the BCG jab.
Similar studies are also being conducted in member countries of the Francophonie — an organization of French-speaking or France-influenced countries — including Cambodia in Asia, for an assessment of the correlation between COVID-19 and the BCG vaccine, if any.
In the absence of results from the research, Dr. Nhung emphasized his warning against administering the vaccine to adults.
A young Japanese man recently suffered from complications after getting the BCG shot to prevent COVID-19, the hospital director said.
Under Vietnam’s national Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), the BCG vaccine has been given to children during the first month or the first year of their life for over 30 years to prevent tuberculosis.
Vietnam has so far confirmed 268 cases of COVID-19, a tally that has stayed unchanged since Thursday.
Only 54 patients remained in treatment on Tuesday morning.
No death related to the respiratory disease has been reported in Vietnam.