Millions of people have already been vaccinated against TB and polio. Some scientists now say these vaccines could offer a low-risk way to boost the immune system against the coronavirus, according to The Washington Post.
“This is the only vaccine in the world that can be given to combat covid-19 right now,” Jeffrey D. Cirillo, a professor of microbial pathogenesis and immunology at Texas A&M Health Science Center, told the newspaper.
While scientists aren’t claiming those vaccines could prevent COVID-19 altogether, they could instead lessen the severity of the disease.
In a study published on Thursday in Science, scientists noted how the vaccines offer broad protection against unrelated pathogens. Previous studies have demonstrated this positive effect, like how oral poliovirus vaccine reduced infant mortality by 32 percent when given at birth, not to mention reduced ear infections and fewer hospital admissions for respiratory infections in children.
Researchers noticed that while COVID-19 infections are raging through countries like Pakistan, the death rate is “relatively low” compared to that of the U.S., which has two-thirds of the world’s unvaccinated population.
“It’s not like they’re not getting the infection,” Azra Raza, a professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, told the newspaper. “The rate [of positive infections] is high. But they’re just not dying. It is raging through, but they’re not dying of it.”
Other cross-country comparisons and varying vaccine policies introduce uncertainty to the idea, however. Brazil, for example, reportedly has a raging outbreak despite widespread TB vaccinations.
The outlet theorized success in treating COVID-19 could offer protection against a second wave of the virus possibly looming ahead.