Protective roles of flu infections and BCG vaccination in lowering COVID-19 mortality

Team Lead: Dipankar Nandi

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great loss of lives as well as affected economies in several countries. The loss of COVID-19 deaths is far greater in some countries compared to others. This observation led us to perform epidemiological analysis using disease and vaccination data in the public domain with respect to measles, hepatitis B virus, polio, tuberculosis and flu from twenty five countries across the globe. There is no correlation between COVID-19 incidences or deaths, as well as vaccination coverage, with respect to diseases such as measles, hepatitis B virus and polio.

However, countries with lower cases of tuberculosis and higher cases of flu have a significant correlation with respect to COVID-19 deaths. In fact, countries with high BCG vaccination coverage show a significant negative correlation with COVID-19 deaths. Surprisingly, countries such as the USA, Italy, France and Spain which have flu vaccination, but not BCG vaccination, show maximum number of COVID-19 deaths. It appears that high numbers of flu infections are protective and can decrease the number of COVID-19 deaths. Importantly, countries with high flu cases and BCG vaccination, such as India, Egypt, South Africa etc, show relatively lower COVID-19 deaths, reinforcing the protective roles of BCG vaccination. Notably, these general trends are statistically significant for COVID-19 deaths but not COVID-19 incidences. The implications of our results are discussed with respect to the roles of microbial infections in the respiratory tract, vaccinations and other factors in lowering COVID-19 deaths.

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