The ICMR will conduct a multi-centric study to assess whether the BCG vaccine, used against tuberculosis, can prevent the occurrence of coronavirus infection and reduce the severity of the disease and mortality among elderly individuals residing in hotspot areas.
The study will be carried out in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi in approximately 1,500 healthy volunteers above 60-years of age, an ICMR scientist said.
Sanction has already been accorded to the trial by the ICMR's National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT) in Chennai by the Tamil Nadu government on July 15 to study the efficacy of BCG vaccine in the elderly.
The BCG-COVID trial, under the auspices of ICMR would be held in five other centres - National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, National Institute for Research in Environmental Health in Bhopal, GS Medical College and KEM Hospital in Mumbai, National Institute for Implementation Research on Non-Communicable Diseases in Jodhpur and AIIMS, New Delhi.
"As a part of this multi-centric study which will be carried out at six sites, elderly people not affected by coronavirus infection, will be given the Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine. The same BCG vaccine that is administered to newborn babies as a part of National Immunization programme for more than 50 years in the country will be used in this study," the ICMR scientist said.
"The objective is to see if the shots can prevent the occurrence of the coronavirus infection and reduce the severity of the disease and mortality rate among the elderly individuals residing in hotspot areas," the scientist said.
There are pre-set criteria in the study that will decide on eligibility of a volunteer to participate in this study.
The volunteers would be followed up closely for a period of six months post vaccination.
Those vaccinated would be followed up and if some of them get infected with COVID-19 later on, it would be assessed if the BCG vaccination stood them in good stead when compared with others of the same age group who were not vaccinated.