Marking 100 years of the tuberculosis BCG vaccine
The VALIDATE Network, a community of over 400 researchers based in more than 200 research institutions in 63 countries, will today launch the “BCG100 Programme” marking the centenary of the Bacille Calmette-Guérin Vaccine for tuberculosis.
The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine is the first, and still a century later, only vaccine approved for humans that protects against tuberculosis.
On 18 July 1921 at the Hôpital de la Charité in Paris, a newborn infant, whose mother had died of tuberculosis that same morning, received a dose of an experimental vaccine called Bacille Calmette- Guérin. This young child would be the first human to receive the BCG vaccine, which, over the coming century, would be administered to billions of people across the planet, saving tens of millions of lives.
Starting on World TB Day, 24 March 2021, VALIDATE’s BCG100 programme will consist of public events, talks with school students from around the world, a social media campaign, a series of computer games and other online activities with the aim of educating the public about the science and history behind vaccinations.
VALIDATE also hopes to draw attention to the work researchers are doing today to improve or replace the lifesaving but flawed BCG vaccine. BCG100 officially launches with the ‘BCG Then and Now’ online lecture by Professor Helen McShane (University of Oxford) and Professor Paul Fine (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). Taking place at 6pm GMT, 24 March 2021, the talk will cover the initial development of the vaccine, moving through to the modern-day challenges in the fight against TB and the future challenges researchers face in replacing the enduring BCG vaccine.
VALIDATE Network Director Professor Helen McShane says, ‘In a year when we have had a lot of media coverage about new vaccines, it is appropriate to take time to remember a very old vaccine. It is 100 years since BCG, the only licensed vaccine against TB, was first developed. Although BCG has saved millions of lives in the last 100 years, it is far from perfect and that there is significant work underway to develop a better vaccine against TB.
‘At VALIDATE, TB is one of our four focus pathogens. An important aim of our BCG100 campaign is to explain that although COVID-19 is responsible for a devastating global number of deaths in the last year, TB kills 1.4 million people every single year. Only a very small fraction of the resources available for COVID-19, and for pathogens such as HIV, are available for the development of improvements to the now century-old BCG.
‘BCG100 will be a fun and engaging way for the public to learn about vaccines, TB and what VALIDATE researchers are doing to protect millions around the world from pathogens like TB.’
Network Manager Samantha Vermaak added, ‘We have a very busy programme of activities that we hope will get the public involved in science research for vaccines against neglected diseases such as TB. Science communications is an essential part of our members’ work, and BCG100 will give the public a chance to engage with our community of world leading vaccine researchers.’
To find out more about BCG100 and to take part in the virtual event on 24 March, visit the VALIDATE network BCG100 web page.