21 April 2020

Radboud university medical center and UMC Utrecht are working on a joint research project to discover whether the tuberculosis (BCG) vaccine reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus in people aged 60 or older, or the severity of the symptoms in the event of infection. A total of 1,600 people may take part in the study, which starts today. Half of the study participants will be given the vaccine, the other half will not.
 
The elderly have a higher chance of becoming seriously ill as a result of the coronavirus. Also, if infected, they are more at risk of dying from the infection. There is currently no vaccine against the coronavirus, and no other way of protecting the elderly from infection. However, previous research shows that the BCG vaccine protects not just against tuberculosis, but that it can also increase people’s immunity to other viruses.
 
Scientific research
It is unclear whether the BCG vaccine can also provide some level of protection from the coronavirus. The aim of this study is therefore to find out whether it does. The study should answer the question whether the BCG vaccine provides protection from the coronavirus and/or whether it reduces the severity of the symptoms in the elderly. This is the second study carried out by the Radboud university medical center and UMC Utrecht into the effect of the BCG vaccine on the coronavirus. The first study focused specifically on healthcare workers, whereas this study focuses exclusively on the elderly.
 
The vaccine
BCG is the most widely administered vaccine in the world and is used in many countries to prevent tuberculosis. For this study, the hospitals will obtain the BCG vaccine directly from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The study will therefore not affect the availability of the vaccine for regular use by the municipal public health service (GGD) in the Netherlands. Participants in the study must be aged 60 or older.
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