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BCG vaccination

Dear Parent/ carer

We are aware that a recent communication regarding BCG vaccination has been circulated to you and that it has caused confusion and anxiety for some parents. In response we have detailed below clarification regarding this vaccination and the people who are eligible to receive it.

BCG vaccination

BCG vaccination protects against tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis is a treatable but serious bacterial infection which affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body, such as the bones, joints and kidneys. It can also cause meningitis.

TB that affects the lungs is the most contagious type however it isn’t easily transmitted. TB is usually only transmitted after prolonged exposure to someone with the illness. For example, it often spreads within a family who live in the same house. It is therefore not indicated for people to receive the vaccination due to travel to London for instance.

In 2005 the UK BCG vaccination programme was changed from a universal programme, when all young people were offered the vaccine, to a selective programme in which only people most at risk of acquiring TB are vaccinated.  The criteria for BCG vaccination are detailed below:

  • Babies who have parents or grandparents who come from a country with an incidence of TB greater than 40/ 100,000 people in the population.

  • Infants and children living in areas of the UK where the annual incidence of TB is 40/100,000 people in the population.

  • Previously unvaccinated under 16 year old who are going to live or work with local people for more than three months in a country where the annual incidence of TB is 40/100,000 or greater.

  • Individuals at occupational risk under the age of 35.

There is currently a global shortage of BCG vaccination, meaning that its usage is currently being carefully restricted to prioritise those most in need.

If you believe your child is eligible for BCG vaccination, please contact your school nursing service or GP and ask them to complete a referral to the specialist immunisation service. If you have any questions regarding this communication, please do not hesitate to contact your local immunisation team.

Yours faithfully

Julie Thornton