Health workers are at the center of a COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa. The process is testing the efficacy of BCG – Bacille Calmette-Guerin, a tuberculosis vaccine, against COVID-19.

500 health workers are involved in a process undertaken by Task, a clinical research organization funding the study. The trial is to be extended to some 3000 participants in Cape Town who will be monitored for a year, the organization noted.

250 participants have so far been given the injection, and another 250 given a placebo. A placebo is an innocuous or inert medication; given as a pacifier or to the control group in experiments on the efficacy of a drug.

Prof Andreas Diacon of Task, told the AFP news agency that children immunized with BCG tended to suffer less from respiratory illness like asthma.

“South Africa does vaccinate all newborns with BCG. Re-vaccinating adults could help reduce the consequences of this pandemic,” Task said in a statement.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness which is the subject of a global search for vaccine and treatment. In Africa, anti-malarial drug chloroquine has been okayed for treatment by a number of countries – especially in dire cases.

The WHO will have to evaluate the outcome of such trials for more work to continue on their efficacy. The global health body has also expressed worry about the potential impact of shortages of BCG which are used to vaccinate children against TB.

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