Written by Prakriti Panwar – a grade 11 student
Have you ever been puzzled as to how you got that little circular scar on your arm? Ever wondered what it might be? As infants, we all have been injected with a vaccine, to prevent us from getting Tuberculosis, a disease rampant in countries such as ours.
Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG) is a vaccine quite common to our nation and almost every child under the age of five has been injected with it. In addition to immune children against Tuberculosis (TB) , studies say that this vaccine offers protection against various other respiratory diseases and meningitis as well.
The BCG vaccine is actually just a weakened form of the Tuberculosis found in cattle. It provides immunisation against the disease as it is related to the bacteria, which causes TB in us humans as well. The question of BCG being a possible preventative for Covid-19 was raised when a trend in the death rate of various countries was noticed. It was observed that nations which made it compulsory for all citizens to be immunised by the BCG vaccine had a lower mortality rate. Hence, countries such as Italy, Netherlands and USA, which did not have a mandatory BCG vaccination policy, were gravely affected, as compared to countries such as India, where the vaccination has been compulsory since a really long time.
It was seen also that the vaccine had reduced the number of Covid -19 cases in certain countries. It is a proven fact that live vaccines such as BCG itself are more effective as compared to inactive vaccines such as flu shots. However, the Chief of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) mentioned that the BCG vaccine does not necessarily save oneself completely. It is only a partial protection, that too which lasts approximately for 15 years. If revaccination for Covid-19 has to be done, it has to be carried out in adolescence itself, for the vaccine will not protect senior citizens. This just proves that the efficacy of the prophylactic can also be questioned quite easily and that it has its own limitations.
The entire world waits for a deterrent, but the absence of conclusive evidence keeps everyone on a standstill. Doctors and Researchers say that, “A combination of reduced rate of morbidity (rate of disease in a population) and mortality could make the BCG vaccine a game changer in the fight against Coronavirus.” As mentioned earlier, in the absence of proof, WHO does not recommend the use of BCG as a vaccine against Covid -19.
According to the World Health Organisation, if BCG is used as a deterrent in the near future, it might even lead to a dearth of the vaccine and fail it from serving its main purpose- Preventing TB. This might further lead to some major complications. Organisations such as the (ICMR) will be launching their research and tests on the use of the vaccine in the coming week. However, till then, not much can be said and done, as even the smallest of actions might have greater and unknown repercussions. For now, the vaccine which gave us ‘the scar’ is just one of the many hopes we have.
Written by Prakriti Panwar
Prakriti is 15 years old and has a flair for writing. Her short story is part of an e-book available on amazon. She have also been a part of the editorial team for the Times of India school edition.