The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has revealed Cold War-style divides in science

Russia has offered to share its research on many occasions, writes Mary Dejevsky, but our perceptions of the east may have contributed to a delay in looking at the BCG vaccine as a possible solution 

Thursday 15 October 2020 19:38
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The search for a vaccine is the new arms race
The search for a vaccine is the new arms race

When Exeter University announced with some fanfare that it was to take part in an international study to consider the possible benefits of the old anti-tuberculosis (TB) vaccine against coronavirus, my first reaction – like that of many people, no doubt – was to congratulate the scientists and hope for their success. My second reaction, though, was to ask: what took them so long?

Back in April, when deaths from Covid-19 in the UK were at their height, there was much talk of the disparities between different countries – as there still is. But one factor briefly hazarded as perhaps part of the explanation was the difference in national governments’ policies towards vaccination against TB.

Researchers at the New York Institute of Technology had found that “countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination (Italy, the Netherlands, USA) have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies,” and that the difference could not be accounted for by other factors, such early adoption of social distancing.

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