Epworth HealthCare is partnering with Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) to study whether a vaccine, normally used to protect against tuberculosis, can be used to boost immunity against COVID-19 in healthcare workers.

While the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is designed to protect against tuberculosis, it also boosts immunity to protect against other infections. Some studies have shown people who have had a BCG vaccine have fewer viral respiratory tract infections than those without the vaccine. Other studies have shown people who have had a BCG vaccine and then get a virus, have lower virus levels in their blood than those who haven’t received a BCG vaccine.

Dr Niki Tan, Epworth Anaesthetist and Director of Critical Care Clinical Trials said the purpose of this World Health Organization-approved study is to find out whether BCG vaccination protects against COVID-19 or reduces severity of COVID-19 in Australian healthcare workers.

“Half of the people in the study will be randomly allocated to receive the BCG vaccine, and half will not receive the vaccine. Everyone will have a blood test taken, and be followed up for six months,” Niki said.

The BCG vaccine trial has been incorporated into Epworth’s annual staff flu vaccination, which commenced in late March.