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New publication: BCG vaccination and COVID morbidity and mortality

New publication: BCG vaccination and COVID morbidity and mortality

Lucy Chimoyi

In 2020, in the absence of therapeutic interventions to control COVID-19 spread, and a seemingly higher COVID-19 burden in many developed countries, many researchers investigated the association between presence of a current BCG vaccination policy and the rising morbidity and mortality cases in countries without this policy. Some ecological studies found an association between no BCG vaccination policy and the spread of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In our study, we set out to explore this association by investigating the effect of including underlying country-specific variations such as proportion of older population, stringency level measures, testing levels population size, gross domestic product and difference from the date of the 100th cases and 31 May 2020. We further explored this association at four different time-points (mid-April, end-April, mid-May and end-May) to better understand the comparisons reported in previously unpublished studies.


We found evidence of a weakening association of BCG vaccination policy and SARS_CoV2 cases and deaths from mid-April 2020 to end-May 2020. When we included the country specific-factors, we found no statistical evidence to support previously reported associations. In fact, our findings revealed that SARS-CoV2 magnitude is determined by country-level responses and not the absence of a vaccination policy.

In light of our findings, we urge countries to increase efforts on the current tools that show evidence of controlling SARS-CoV2 spread such as the newly produced vaccines. We also urge countries to give greater attention to tuberculosis whose management has been disrupted during the COVID-19 epidemic.  

Click here to read the full article.

About the author: Lucy Chimoyi is a Senior Research Manager managing implementation of HIV research studies. She is a final year PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand.