COVID-19: KEM hospital needs South Bombay volunteers for BCG vaccine trial

Updated: 19 September, 2020 06:52 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Officials are looking for candidates aged above 60 years in high-positivity area to check efficacy of repurposed vaccine

Residents in a Govandi market. A single dose of the BCG vaccine, which is used in TB treatment, has been given to each of the senior citizen volunteers, who will be monitored over six months. FILE PIC
Residents in a Govandi market. A single dose of the BCG vaccine, which is used in TB treatment, has been given to each of the senior citizen volunteers, who will be monitored over six months. FILE PIC

While the Oxford vaccine trial is yet to take off in the city, work on the BCG vaccine trial, which is being tested as a preventive measure against COVID-19 among senior citizens, has been underway for nearly a month now. Doses have already been administered to 24 participants. A team from KEM hospital is now looking for more candidates.

The BCG vaccine gives non-specific immunity from infections and is given to children in India. As part of the ICMR trial in Mumbai, one dose of the vaccine will be given to each of the 250 candidates in the age group of 60-75 years.

Dr Rujuta Hadaye from the Department of Community Medicine said that the BCG vaccine was being given to senior citizens since the rate of mortality was the highest among patients above 60 years old. "We are repurposing the BCG vaccine and trying to find out if it works against COVID-19. The aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing morbidity and mortality in senior citizens," she added. The trial at KEM started on August 21.

Spreading awareness

She further said that the progress was slow as not many people were aware of the trial and they also had to find people who were willing to undergo the process. "There is a lot of fieldwork involved and we are going to communities as well. We have visited a geriatric clinic in Naigaon and a number of senior citizen groups, and will also be going to dispensaries to enrol candidates. We are trying to create awareness through health workers as well," she said. While the team has already looked for candidates in G South (Worli) ward, they have now scheduled visits to A ward (Marine Drive). All candidates are made to undergo RT-PCR tests to verify that they haven't been infected before.

BMC doctors and health workers conduct check-ups at a housing society in Shiv Shrushti Road, Kurla East on Friday. PIC/SAYYED SAMEER ABEDIBMC doctors and health workers conduct check-ups at a housing society in Shiv Shrushti Road, Kurla East on Friday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Dr Hadaye's team is looking for candidates in COVID-19 hotpots. "We are visiting areas which have a high positivity rate so that we can test the efficacy of the vaccine. So far, none of the 24 candidates have had any adverse reactions from the vaccine or have tested positive for COVID-19," she said.

As part of the 10 month-long trial, every candidate would be monitored for six months. She added that since the candidates were all senior citizens, they were not asked to visit the hospital for check-ups. "When required, we send an X-Ray machine to their neighbourhood or a van to pick them up and drop them off at their homes later," she added.

Eligibility criteria

Dr Hadaye said that apart from the 250 candidates, each of whom will receive a single dose of the BCG vaccine, there would be a control group of 125 candidates for Mumbai. As part of the eligibility criteria, candidates cannot be immunocompromised, be a transplant patient or an HIV, tuberculosis or cancer patient. The trial across the country will involve 1,450 candidates along with another 725 as the control group.

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First Published: 19 September, 2020 06:51 IST

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