Why go private?
Although TB can be a very serious disease, it is possible to make a full recovery from most forms of TB with treatment.
Read more about tuberculosis (TB).
PLEASE NOTE: The vaccine we use is the same as the NHS (made in Denmark)
Who should have the BCG vaccine?
The BCG vaccine (which stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine) protects against TB. It’s not given as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination schedule except in high risk areas when a baby is thought to have an increased risk of coming into contact with TB.
This includes all babies born in some areas of inner-city London (and including Brent and Harrow) where TB rates are higher than in the rest of the country.
BCG vaccination may also be recommended for older children who have an increased risk of developing TB, such as:
- children who have recently arrived from countries with high levels of TB
- children who have come into close contact with somebody infected with respiratory TB
BCG vaccination is rarely given to anyone over the age of 16 – and never over the age of 35, because it doesn’t work very well in adults. It is, however, given to adults aged between 16 and 35 who are at risk of TB through their work, such as some healthcare workers.
How effective is BCG vaccination?
The BCG vaccine is made from a weakened form of a bacterium closely related to human TB. Because the bacterium is weak, the vaccine does not cause any disease but it still triggers the immune system to protect against the disease, giving good immunity to people who receive it.
The vaccine is 70-80% effective against the most severe forms of TB, such as TB meningitis in children. It is less effective in preventing respiratory disease, which is the more common form in adults.
Read about the side effects of the BCG vaccine.
Who should have the BCG (TB) vaccine?
BCG vaccination is recommended for babies and adults at risk of catching tuberculosis (TB).
Babies who should have the BCG vaccine
The BCG vaccination is recommended for all babies up to one year old who:
- are born in areas where the rates of TB are high
- have one or more parents or grandparents who were born in countries with a high incidence of TB
- are likely to travel abroad
Why should I protect my child from tuberculosis with a BCG injection?
Older children and adults who should have the BCG vaccine
- The BCG vaccination is recommended for all older children and adults at risk of TB including:
- older children with an increased risk of TB who were not vaccinated against TB when they were babies
- anyone under 16 who has come from an area where TB is widespread
- anyone under 16 who has been in close contact with someone who has pulmonary TB (TB infection of the lung)
- anyone studying healthcare or related subjects
Workers who should have the BCG vaccine
BCG vaccination is recommended for people under the age of 35 who are at risk of TB through their jobs including:
- healthcare workers
- laboratory staff who are in contact with blood, urine and tissue samples
- veterinary staff and other animal workers, such as abattoir workers, who work with animals, such as cattle or monkeys, that are susceptible to TB
- prison staff who work directly with prisoners
- staff of care homes for the elderly
- staff of hostels for homeless people
- staff who work in facilities for refugees and asylum seekers
- healthcare workers with an increased risk of exposure to TB
Travellers who should have the BCG vaccine
The BCG vaccine is also recommended for people under 16 years of age who are going to live and work with local people for more than three months in an area with high rates of TB.
- Parts of the world that have high rates of TB include:
- Africa – particularly sub-Saharan Africa (all the African countries south of the Sahara desert) and west Africa, including Nigeria and South Africa. Southeast Asia – including India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh
- South America
- the western Pacific region (to the west of the Pacific Ocean) – including Vietnam and Cambodia
How to tell if you’re already immune to TB
Before you have the BCG vaccination, you should be tested to see if you’ve been exposed to TB before. A test, called the tuberculin skin test, or Mantoux test, should be carried out before BCG vaccination if someone is:
- six years or over
- a baby or child under six with a history of residence or a prolonged stay (more than three months) in a country with an annual TB incidence of 40 per 100,000 or more
- those who have had close contact with a person with known TB
- those who have a family history of TB within the last five years
The Mantoux test assesses your sensitivity to a substance called tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) when it’s injected into your skin.
If your skin is sensitive to PPD tuberculin a hard red bump will develop at the site of the injection, usually within 48 to 72 hours of having the test.
If you develop this reaction (a positive test result) it shows that your immune system recognises TB because of previous exposure and you should not be vaccinated as you already have some immunity to TB. In this case, the BCG vaccine would have no clinical benefit and may cause unpleasant side effects.
If the test is negative, you can go ahead and have the BCG vaccine.
If you have a strongly positive Mantoux result, you should be referred to a TB specialist team for further assessment.
Who should not have the BCG vaccination?
The BCG vaccine is not recommended for:
- people who have already had a BCG vaccination
- people with a past history of TB
- people with a positive tuberculin skin test (Mantoux)
- people who have had a previous anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) to any of the substances used in the vaccine
- newborn babies in a household where a case of TB is suspected or confirmed
- people who have a septic skin condition at the site where the injection will be given
- people who have received another live vaccine less than three weeks earlier
- people with a weakened immune system, either as a result of a health condition such as HIV, treatments such as chemotherapy or medicines that suppress the immune system such as steroid tablets
- people who have cancer of the white blood cells, bone marrow or lymph nodes, such as leukaemia or lymphoma
- people who are seriously unwell (vaccination should be delayed until they recover)
- pregnant women
BCG vaccinations are not usually offered to people over the age of 16 because the vaccine doesn’t work well in those over 16 and there’s virtually no evidence showing that it is effective in those aged over 35.
However, some people over 16 and under 35 whose work puts them at occupational risk of TB may still be offered the vaccine.