What is the BCG vaccine? 5 facts you should know

The BCG vaccine conjures up yesteryear images of children queuing up to receive the vaccine in schools. But what is it and why do we still have it?

A BCG vaccine vial from the Serum Institute of India

BCG vaccine

What is the BCG vaccine?

The BCG is a weakened live Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria vaccine often given in childhood. It’s not part of the routine child vaccination schedule in the UK but it protects babies and children from severe forms of the disease

Is the BCG  any good?

It does protect and babies and children from the severe forms of TB such meningitis and miliary (TB infection that spreads through the whole of the body) though it becomes less effective in adulthood especially after 35 years of age. It does not however, as is popularly believed, prevent you from getting TB.

So who should receive the BCG?

It is not routinely given to everyone. Those considered most at risk are offered the vaccine and these include…

  • Babies and children born in areas where the TB disease rate higher than other parts of the country such as inner London
  • Babies and children whose parents or grandparents are from a country where there is high rate of TB
  • Healthcare workers also at higher risk and are also offered the vaccine
  • Some people working in healthcare or studying abroad may also require the BCG vaccine

How is the BCG given?

 The way this live vaccine is given is different to other vaccines. It is injected directly into the skin or intradermally rather than into the muscle like most vaccines. For this reason, it needs to be given by a healthcare professional who is skilled in the procedure.

Where can I get a BCG vaccine?

Those at high risk like some new born babies will receive it at birth before they leave hospital. Some community health clinics also do it; ask your health visitor. However, the vaccine has been in short supply recently and not all clinics will hold stocks. At Travel Klinix, we hold limited stocks and so if you want to know whether you or your child are suitable for the BCG vaccine please contact us at info@travelklinix.com or call 02476 016519

Read more about the BCG vaccine and tuberculosis here