BCG Vaccine

Who should have the BCG Vaccine?

The Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) Vaccine is not given to all babies. It is given to babies who have a higher risk of catching TB.

Your baby has a higher risk of catching TB if he or she:

  • will be living with a person who currently has TB or has a past history of TB
  • has one or both parents who are Pacific people
  • has parents or household members who have lived for six months or longer (within the last five years) in countries where there is a high risk of TB
  • will be living for three months or longer in a high risk country (during their first five years)
  • ALL COUNTRIES ARE HIGH RISK EXCEPT: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

What is TB?

  • TB is an infectious disease. It can cause tiredness, coughing, fever, and shortness of breath.
  • TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect any part of the body, including kidneys, glands, and sometimes the brain.
  • TB can spread from person to person through coughing and spitting.
  • TB is still one of the most common notifiable infectious diseases. There are between 300-400 cases of TB in New Zealand each year.

How can I protect my baby from TB?

You can get your baby immunized with the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine. The BCG vaccine helps your baby’s immune system fight the germs that cause TB. The vaccine is given to your baby as an injection.

When is the best time for my baby to have the BCG vaccine?It is best for your baby to have the vaccine within a few days of being born and up to 6 months old.
If your baby is older than 6 months, he or she will be tested to see if they have been exposed to the TB germ. Depending on the results of this test, your baby may be offered the vaccine.

What happens after my baby is vaccinated?
Reactions to the vaccine are common, but serious long-term complications are rare. Most babies vaccinated with BCG develop a local reaction, followed by healing and scar formation within three months.

  • in 1-6 weeks, a small red blister may appear where the injection was given. This should heal in a few weeks.
  • After 6-12 weeks, the blister may turn into a small, weeping sore, if this happens, cover the site with gauze to allow air to get in. Do not use sticking plasters.
  • The sore may take up to 3 months to heal, and may leave a small scar. This is normal.

How effective is the vaccine? 

The effectiveness of BCG vaccination against TB is not clear. However, while BCG does not prevent TB infection, it is agreed that BCG protects against development of severe forms of childhood TB.

How long does the vaccine protection last?The duration of protection after BCG vaccination is not clear. However, trials have shown protection from BCG vaccination after 15 years.

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