A vaccine that is more than a century old could become the first approved vaccine for Covid-19 later this year.
Immunologist, Prof Luke O’Neill, said results of BCG vaccine trials in protecting people against the coronavirus are expected in about three months.
Prof O’Neill said production of the BCG vaccine, first used on humans in 1921, is already “ramping up” in anticipation.
The BCG vaccine, first introduced in Ireland in 1937, can cause a non-specific boost of the immune system.
The vaccine has a strong safety record and recent studies show that revaccination is safe.
Prof O’Neill said a fourth research paper from the University of Michigan in the US was the latest to suggest that the BCG vaccination could be effective against Covid-19.
Speaking on Newstalk, Prof O’Neill said it is the best research paper he has seen so far that looks at the association between BCG vaccination and protection against the coronavirus.
The researchers found that countries with national policies for universal BCG vaccination have fewer deaths from Covid-19.
Mandated BCG vaccination policies are associated with a “significant flattening” of the increase in both confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 during the first 30-day period of country-wide outbreaks.
“Our analysis suggests that mandated BCG vaccination can be effective in the fight against Covid-19,” the paper states.
Prof O’Neill said the case is getting stronger that the BCG vaccination would be protective.
It could be that children who received the BCG vaccination are not infected and that is reducing the spread of the virus to older people.
Prof O’Neill said the BCG vaccination builds up a non-specific barrier against other infections and maybe they are re-stimulated with every infection for years.
“It’s almost like the BCG is bringing out a special police force and that is sustained through time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the head of the coronavirus expert advisory group and director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, Dr Cillian De Gascun, has warned against complacency about the dangers of Covid-19.
The experience in Italy and the US has shown that “given the opportunity, this virus will run rampant,” he said on RTÉ radio.
When the time comes, said Dr De Gascun, restrictions will reduce in “reverse order”, with movement and retail outlets looked at first.
Infectious disease specialist, Prof Sam McConkey, said the Government could opt for a “short, sharp response” to stop the spread of the virus entirely, a move that will require a 32-county response.
“It would be challenging. It would mean restricting travel and quarantining people coming into the country,” said Prof McConkey.