Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE
Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE

Something doesn’t add up with SA’s Covid-19 infection and death rates. While our unique brand of social-distancing has flattened the infection curve, we know the coronavirus reached several townships where social-distancing has been sub-optimal. If this had been 1918, some should already be presenting widespread sickness.

Discounting seasonal temperatures and vitamin D differences, could the bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination be playing a hidden role in this unexpected situation? Developed in the 1920s to fight juvenile TB, it can give a broader immunity against respiratory infections. While somewhat controversial in how well it protects and for how long, the BCG remains one of the pillars of TB containment worldwide.

TB is still a major cause of death in SA and, since 1973, all babies have required vaccination, though it was happening before then. The US, Italy and Belgium, among other countries, have never had formal BCG vaccination programmes and it is no longer a requirement in the UK.

Could this difference partially explain their higher Covid-19 infection and death rates?

As Australia is now considering BCG re-inoculation for front line Covid-19 medical staff, is there more to this centenarian vaccination than is immediately apparent?

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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