Elderly in urban areas more eager to get BCG vaccine

Elderly in urban areas more eager than rural peers to get BCG vaccine

Representative image. Credit: iStock.

Elderly people living in Karnataka’s urban areas are more forthcoming to get a shot of the BCG vaccine given as part of an ICMR study on Covid-19, while those in the rural areas are reluctant. 

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently approved the study to find out if the BCG vaccine can reduce Covid-19 morbidity and mortality in the elderly population falling in the 60-80 age group. While BCG is typically given to infants against tuberculosis, it is tried on elders to find out if they develop Covid or the extent of its severity. 

Mysuru’s JSS Medical College vaccinated 150 people, while Mysore Medical College has given the vaccine shot to 103 elderly people. Rajarajeswari Medical College (110 elderly people) and Narayana Health (NH) (50 people at one of its Electronics City clinics) are the other participants of the trial. 

Principal investigators (PI) from the four hospitals told DH that greater persuasion was needed for the elderly in the rural areas to participate in the trial. Doctors also had to explain the pros and cons of the trial. 

Rajarajeswari college had tapped into the database of 20 primary health centres in the rural parts of Ramanagara and Bengaluru Rural districts to gather 160 people for the screening. The institute will monitor the patients for six to nine months. So far, one person vaccinated at the institute has contracted Covid-19. 

“Of the 155 elderly people screened for the trial, 103 have been vaccinated,” Dr Prashanth B, Associate Professor, Preventive and Social Medicine, Mysore Medical College, the PI, told DH.

“By April-end, our six-month observation period will be over. Since the trial is taking place across 10 locations in India with a target sample size of 1,500, we will stop the enrolment for the trial in three or four days once we reach the adequate trial size.” 

Participants in the trial should have tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 and antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. They should reside in a hotspot (which means they should be at the risk of contracting the disease), besides which they should have also tested negative for TB and HIV. 

Dr Pratibha Perara, HOD, Geriatrics, JSS Medical College, the PI for the trial at the institute, said that 150 of 180 people screened at the institute had been vaccinated. “Additional numbers will be taken up as control group,” she said. 

Elaborate measures

Dr Pratibha said that since the elderly were apprehensive coming to the hospital, doctors would go to them. “We go to their doorsteps and vaccinate them,” she said. “We have zoned the hospital to make sure the participants don’t mix with other patients. We have a separate lift and take care of the X-ray machine used for them. Outpatients don’t come to our research area.”

Careful not to mix the patients, Narayana Health also avoided calling trial participants to its main hospital in Bommasandra and instead gathered them at its clinic in Neeladri Road. It asked other patients not to visit the clinic in the afternoon. The hospital is also reaching out to Residents’ Welfare Associations to persuade more elderly people to take the vaccine.