Mandatory BCG vaccination may make COVID-19 less virulent in

India, suggests study
    Kolkata, May 8 (PTI) After scanning COVID-19 data of
29 countries across the world, a group of city-based
researchers has suggested that factors such as BCG vaccination
in developing nations like India have led to a situation where
the rate of contamination and fatality from the disease is
less than that in the developed world.
    The bacille Calmette-Gurin (BCG) vaccine has a
documented protective effect against meningitis and
disseminated TB in children, according to the World Health
Organisation. It is part of the mandatory childhood
immunization programme in many countries including India.
    "Our research showed that the rate of affected people
is significantly lower in countries like ours than developed
nations which did not make BCG vaccination mandatory," said
Prof Arindam Banik, director of a management institute, who
led the group of four researchers from reputed institutes.
    "Such vaccination somehow dilutes the virulence of
novel coronavirus and develops immunity among a large number
of people," he told PTI.
    Besides India, infants in countries like Portugal,
Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia get BCG
vaccination and all these countries have witnessed less
COVID-19 cases. Whereas in the USA, Italy and the UK where
that vaccination is not mandatory, a large number of people
were afflicted with the disease, Banik said.
    The findings will come out in a prestigious journal
    To calculate the rate of novel coronavirus infected
people, the researchers took into account 45 days starting
from the day the first such case was reported in a country and
then divided its population by the number of COVID-19 cases.
    "The 45-day period varies from one country to another.
If the starting point is February-end for Italy, it is early
March for England, mid-January for China and March-end for
India," Banik told PTI.
    Asked about the contention by many health experts that
the rate of affected people in India is no way less than
countries like the US and the UK, Banik said epidemiologists
divide the total number of affected with total number of tests
and that shows the figure on the higher side.
    "We are confident that the COVID-19 situation will not
be as severe in the later phase as in Europe where black,
Asian migrants were the worst-hit as the healthcare system was
less accessible to them," he said.
    Besides BCG vaccination, the academician said, they
analysed other factors that determine the fatality rates
across 29 economies spread across both the developing and
developed world.
    "We have explored various econometric models. Based on
available data, our study revealed that factors such as public
health system, population age structure, poverty level and BCG
vaccination are powerful contributory factors in determining
fatality rates among those afflicted with novel coronavirus,"
he said.
    The findings also indicate that population age
structure can lead to high fatality rate across countries.
    "The study shows that the population above 65 are at
significant risk from COVID-19 contagion. Such findings are
more consistent in the context of Europe. According to a WHO
report, top 30 countries with the largest percentage of over-
65 population, all barring Japan are the member states in
Europe and these countries are severely affected by COVID-19,"
he said.
    Evidence shows that over 95 per cent of those died
there are more than 65 years of age and over 50 per cent of
all deaths were people aged 80 years or older, he said.
    "The WHO report also suggests that 8 out of 10 deaths
are occurring in individuals with at least one underlying co-
morbidity condition, particular those with cardiovascular
diseases, hypertension and diabetes," he said. PTI SUS

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)