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.

For Epworth employees and doctors who opted to take part in the BCG vaccine trial, it was incorporated into the annual staff flu vaccination, which commenced in late March.


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