Exeter coronavirus vaccine trial: Routine BGC vaccine is given to 1,000 people at Exeter University

A vaccine usually given to protect children from tuburcolosis could help adults fight against coronavirus, according to researchers at the University of Exeter.

The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine will be enrolled to 1,000 people after the shot was found to stimulate the immune system.

It would not be the ultimate solution, but would instead help people fight off coronavirus until more effective vaccines are discovered.

Prof John Campbell, at the University of Exeter Medical School, told the Guardian the vaccine could be a ‘global game-changer’. 

The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine will be enrolled to 1,000 people after the shot was found to stimulate the immune system. Pictured, people wearing masks in Newcastle

The University of Exeter will enroll 2,000 UK community healthcare workers for the international Brace trial – which is recruiting 10,000 volunteers worldwide.

Volunteers for the trial will either receive a shot of BCG or a placebo. They will then be monitored for a year to see if the vaccinated group pick up fewer Covid-19 infections or have fewer symptons.

Preliminary results are expected in six to nine months.

The University of Exeter will enroll 2,000 UK community healthcare workers for the international Brace trial - which is recruiting 10,000 volunteers worldwide (file image)

The University of Exeter will enroll 2,000 UK community healthcare workers for the international Brace trial – which is recruiting 10,000 volunteers worldwide (file image)

BCG usually causes an immune response against the bacterial disease TB – but it is now thought to help protect against viral infections.

What is the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine?

The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is only given to those who are thought to be at an increased risk of coming into contact with Tuberculosis (TB).

BCG vaccination is recommended for babies up to 1 year old who are born in areas of the UK where TB rates are higher than in the rest of the country, including some parts of inner London, or who have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there’s a high rate of TB.

BCG vaccination may also be recommended for older children who have an increased risk of developing TB, such as children who have recently arrived from countries with high levels of TB or who have come into close contact with somebody infected with respiratory TB.

BCG vaccination is rarely given to anyone over the age of 16 because it does not work very well in adults.

But it’s given to adults aged 16 to 35 who are at risk of TB through their work, such as some healthcare workers.

Althought it used to be given to secondary school children, in 2005 it was replaced with a targeted programme for babies, children and young adults at higher risk of TB.

This is because TB rates in the UK are low in the general population.

Source: NHS 

Last month trial results published in the journal Cell suggested elderly people have fewer respiratory infections after having the vaccine, according to work by an international team of scientists’. 

‘If we see anything close to that sort of protection for coronavirus, this could be a global game changer,’ Campbell said.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate the adaptive immune system which can then release antibodies to destroy invading pathogens in TB.

But it also offers a boost to the body’s ‘innate’ immune system, meaning infections can be fended off before they get the chance to take hold. It is this effect that has given scientists hope it could work as a coronavirus vaccine.  

If found to protect against viral infections the vaccine could be rolled out in future pandemics.

Mihia Netea, a researcher at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said: ‘We think that in a non-vaccinated person, the virus comes in and starts to multiply, but the host defences are slow, so the virus has a chance to multiply a lot.’

If the infected person had been given the BCG vaccine, however, the trial seeks to prove it would boost the immune system’s response and prevent the virus from multiplying so quickly.

The trial comes after it was revealed Covid-19 jabs are expected to be on offer by the NHS from as early as next month, as five mass vaccination centres are planned to be in action by Christmas.   

Leaked provisional documents revealed a plan for hundreds of NHS staff to be deployed in five sites across the country – injecting tens of thousands of the public each day, reported The Sun.

Those most vulnerable to coronavirus will be called up first, with centres manned by trainee nurses and paramedics planned for Leeds, Hull and London, the publication reports. 

In addition to the five static sites of giant scale, GPs and pharmacists will be asked to assist in the mass vaccination effort, with a fleet of mobile units to be used to reach vulnerable communities and those in care homes.  

A source told The Sun: ‘The earliest we are likely to get the first trial results is in a month’s time – which means the best case scenario for a potential roll out is just before Christmas.

‘But planning is well under way, so there will be no delay in vaccination once we have a working jab.’ 

Care home residents and staff will be first to get a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of NHS staff and all over-80s 

Care home residents and staff will be the first to get a Covid-19 vaccine when one is approved, according to fresh government advice.

Everyone over the age of 80 and NHS staff will be second in line, updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states.

The body, which consists of 20 top scientists, advises ministers on all vaccines. It admitted its guidance for any UK Covid-19 vaccination scheme is likely to change in the future.

Matt Hancock previously pledged that Britons with underlying conditions would be near the front of the queue for any jab. But millions living with heart disease or other ailments that raise their risk of dying of Covid-19 won’t be vaccinated until everyone over the age of 65 is inoculated, according to the new guidance. 


Under the proposed ranking by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the vaccines will be rolled out in the following order:

  • older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
  • all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
  • all those 75 years of age and over
  • all those 70 years of age and over
  • all those 65 years of age and over
  • high-risk adults under 65 years of age with underlying health woes
  • moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age with underlying health woes
  • all those 60 years of age and over
  • all those 55 years of age and over
  • all those 50 years of age and over
  • rest of the population (priority to be determined)

Provisional plans state the end of this month as the vaccine roll out date, but without approval from UK regulators and the European Medicines Agency to administer the vaccination the schedule is unlikely to stand fast.

On Sunday Matt Hancock confirmed that the military would be involved in distributing a coronavirus vaccine.

The Health Secretary told the virtual Tory conference that ‘the plans are in train’ to combine the NHS and the armed forces to make ‘the rollout happen’.

He said people would get the vaccine ‘according to priority’ – but did not clarify what that order would be. 

Mr Hancock told the Tory conference that a vaccine was the ‘great hope’.  

The leading contender in the race to find a vaccine is Oxford University, where trials have been ongoing since April – there are hopes the vaccine could be approved by regulators by Christmas.   

Around 100million doses of the Oxford vaccination, which is yet to be proved successful, have already been ordered by the Government.  

The jabs developed by Oxford University require two inoculations, 28 days apart, meaning the logistical challenge faced by the government is two fold. 

To administer two doses of a vaccine to 53 million adults in the six-month time period would involve 600,000 jabs a day. 

The proposals, leaked to The Sun, also suggested that health workers including vets, dieticians and chiropodists could also help administer the doses to the public if regulations are relaxed to allow it.

Those who need the injections most are first on the list, meaning care home residents and staff will get it as soon as it’s ready.

Those aged over 80 and NHS staff are next, followed by all over 65s, younger adults at higher risk and people over 50.

Some care home managers were asked for a list of eligible frontline staff last month. 

On Monday the head of the country’s vaccine task-force Kate Bingham stated that less than half of Britain will get vaccinated against Covid-19.

She claimed ministers are hoping around 30million people will receive the potentially life-saving jab, out of a total of almost 67million.

Ms Bingham said: ‘We just need to vaccinate everyone at risk’, revealing that no-one under the age of 18 will receive a dose.

Last week a Royal Society report warned there would be significant challenges in distributing and producing the vaccine on such a mass scale.

Nilay Shah, head of the department of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, and a co-author of the report, said: ‘Even when the vaccine is available it doesn’t mean within a month everybody is going to be vaccinated. 

Tens of thousands could be vaccinated each day according to leaked documents

Tens of thousands could be vaccinated each day according to leaked documents

Oxford vaccine hit by US side effect pause 

An investigation into Oxford University’s potential coronavirus vaccine is poised to miss a crucial part of the test – because an American regulator has paused the process to investigate side-effects.

Participants in the trial should be having a booster shot, but this cannot happen while the US probe is taking place.

It could mean results from volunteers in the States testing the vaccine will not be able to be used in assessing the treatment.

At least 30,000 participants in America had started testing the drug at the end of August, but the process was paused when someone in Britain suffered side-effects.

It means the US volunteers will not be able to get their second booster shot after 28 days, throwing the test in jeopardy.

Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Times: ‘There is quite a lot of evidence that a longer interval is actually better.

‘However, changing the interval midway through a trial can be problematic. Anyone who doesn’t get their vaccinations according to the stated schedule should be excluded from the final analysis of the trial.

‘That means they may have to recruit additional people to make up the numbers. That will obviously add more delay to getting an answer.

‘If a large group is affected by the delay, they may analyse their data anyway, as a secondary subgroup analysis, to see if the difference in timing has any effect.’

‘We’re talking about six months, nine months . . . a year. There’s not a question of life suddenly returning to normal in March.’   

Yesterday WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed that he anticipated a vaccine against COVID-19 may be ready by the year-end.

Dr Ghebreyesus said in final remarks to the WHO’s Executive Board, without elaborating: ‘We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope.’ 

Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the WHO’s COVAX global vaccine facility that aims to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. 

Britain is currently bound by the European Medicines Agency until January, meaning it can’t administer the drug even if approved by UK regulators.

But Ministers have revealed plans to change the law to allow vaccinations to start sooner.

The Department of Health said: ‘We are confident we have adequate provision or transport, PPE and logistical expertise to deploy a Covid-19 vaccine across the country as quickly as possible.’

Several challenges had been highlighted in the Royal Society report, including the need to inject people with RNA, a type of genetic material, in some of the most promising studies, even though an RNA vaccine has never been produced at a large scale.

Questions also remain over supply chains, with some vaccines having to be kept at -80C while being transported.

Furthermore, as much as 80 per cent of the population may have to be innoculated to achieve herd immunity, even if a vaccine proves to be 90 per cent effective in reducing transmission.

Another contender in the race to vaccinate the world is New York-based company Codagenix, who plans to begin experiments of its vaccine in London by the end of the year.

The jab will be of a type called a live attenuated vaccine, meaning people will be given a genetically-modified version of the coronavirus that is weaker than the real thing but still infectious.

Live attenuated vaccines — such as the MMR jab — work by stimulating the immune system in the same way that real Covid-19 would, but by relying on viruses unable to cause severe illness. 

Five vaccination centres are listed in the provisional plans, including locations in Leeds, Hull and London

Five vaccination centres are listed in the provisional plans, including locations in Leeds, Hull and London

Codagenix says its vaccine was successful after a single dose in animal trials and is designed to produce immunity against various parts of the coronavirus, rather than just the ‘spike protein’ on the outside that many others have focused on.

This could mean it would still work even if the virus mutated. Using a live virus may enable medics to create a type of immunity that is similar to what the body would make naturally. 

For now the UK is now well and truly in the midst of a second wave, with 6,000 new cases every day and hospital admissions doubling every week.        

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