Mozambique: Clinical trials of TB vaccine for use against Covid start this month
The Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) in southern Mozambique is due to start clinical trials this month on the effectiveness of BCG, a vaccine used against tuberculosis, in combating Covid-19, its scientific director, Francisco Saúte, said on Wednesday.
In an interview with public broadcaster Rádio Moçambique, Saúte said that up to 520 health professionals in Manhiça district may be “recruited” to take the BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guérin) vaccine with a view to determining its power to protect against Covid-19.
“The thinking is that BCG may also be beneficial in combating Covid-19: that is the hypothesis that is raised,” he explained.
CISM intends to replicate trials already underway in South Africa, the Netherlands and Australia on the probability that the said vaccine is able to fight the pandemic.
“It may be that the vaccine does not prevent the infection, but it can prevent the most severe forms of infection by the new coronavirus,” Saúte stressed.
On the other hand, any failure in the vaccine’s efficacy in the countries that are already undergoing trials does not necessarily imply that it cannot be valid in other territories, taking into account differences in demographic structure and epidemiological profile, he added.
The enthusiasm for BCG also stems from the relatively low infection rate with the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 in countries that have this instrument against tuberculosis in their mandatory vaccination schedule.
Saúte said that the results of the trials that begin this month may emerge within 18 months. If they are positive, use of the vaccine for Covid-19 would then require approval on the part of Mozambique’s National Bioethics Commission.
The BCG units that will be used in the trials in Mozambique have already been ordered from a European country and are to be shipped once the necessary authorisations are obtained.
“We have premises, equipment and researchers ready for the start of the tests,” Saúte said.
BCG was developed in 1921 by Léon Calmette and Alphonse Guérin; the bacillus used in it was named after them.
Mozambique has so far [by Tuesday, February 9] seen 480 deaths associated with Covid-19 and 45,785 confirmed cases of infection with the coronavirus that causes it. Of those, 60% are deemed to have recovered and 312 are currently in hospital, the great majority in Maputo.