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Afternoon Drive with John Maytham
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Could a routine TB vaccine given to South Africans protect against Covid-19?

8 April 2020 5:23 PM

Scientists are exploring a possible causal link between the BCG jab and low Covid-19 fatality rates.

A New York-based neuroscientist is exploring the possibility that a routine vaccine given to South Africans to prevent TB could also be the reason behind the country's relatively low death rates from coronavirus.

Dr Gonzalo Otazu has found that there is a correlation between countries where citizens are required to get the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine and lower death rates from Covid-19.

A number of studies are taking place globally, and here in South Africa, to determine to what extent the vaccine could offer some protection from coronavirus.

There's no conclusive evidence yet that the BCG protects against Covid-19, although there are some clues that it could.

Gerhard Walz, Professor in the faculty of medicine and health sciences - Stellenbosch University

BCG...seems to decrease other viral infections...besides tuberculosis.

Gerhard Walz, Professor in the faculty of medicine and health sciences - Stellenbosch University

The current infection and death rate from coronavirus are still relatively low in South Africa compared to outbreaks in Italy and the United States.

But Professor Walz says while there may be a link between the BCG and lower fatality rates, it's not conclusive.

One has to remember that the European countries did have universal BCG vaccinations, and the people who are most affected, the elderly, probably all got BCG...so the argument doesn't hold completely.

Gerhard Walz, Professor in the faculty of medicine and health sciences - Stellenbosch University

Listen to the full interview below:


8 April 2020 5:23 PM

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