The BCG vaccination is usually the first vaccine that a newborn baby receives after birth. Parents naturally are very worried for this reason. They are also worried because they have heard that it causes scars and other problems. In this article Dr Ravi Chander MBBS, MD (Paeds) answers all the common questions that parents ask about the BCG vaccine
About Dr Ravi Chander
Dr B Ravi Chander. MBBS, MD (Paeds) is pediatrician with over 30 years of professional experience as a pediatrician and an equal number of years as faculty in Pediatrics. He is currently Professor and Vice Principal at MVJ Medical college & Research Hospital, Bangalore. Dr Ravi Chander is instructor in various courses in Pediatrics and Examiner of MD/DCH for many universities.He has a special interest in Infectious and Respiratory Medicine.
What is the purpose of BCG vaccine?
The BCG vaccine is a vaccine that is given to prevent Tuberculosis in children and it is equally protective in adults
When is the BCG vaccine given?
The BCG vaccine is the first vaccine given to the newborn baby. It is given almost immediately after birth – on the first day of life – which is often referred to by medical personnel as Day 0
Does BCG vaccine ensure that the child will never get Tuberculosis?
The BCG Vaccine prevents Tuberculosis. The vaccine cannot prevent the bacteria from coming into your body – however, it can prevent the organism from getting distributed in your body and causing serious side effect like TB, meningitis or renal-tuberculosis or tuberculosis of the other organs.
Why is the BCG vaccine given at birth?
Since Tuberculosis is an infection that children can catch easily at any time – to give the child as much protection as possible from the serious complications of Tuberculosis WHO has mandated that all children receive BCG vaccine soon after birth
Can BCG vaccine be given at any age?
If for some reason a baby has not received the BCG vaccine at birth – the vaccine can be given at any age up to 5 years without any testing.
After the age of 5 years a test is done to see if the child has immunity to Tuberculosis because of natural exposure to the organism. If the child tests negative – BCG can be given up to the age of 20 years
The test usually needs to be done in people who come to India from foreign countries like NRI’s. In many countries they do not routinely give the BCG vaccine because Tuberculosis is not a problem for them. When these people come to India if their child is above five years we do a test to see if the child has been exposed. If the child tests negative – in those children we can give BCG up to the age of 20 years
What are the side effects of BCG vaccine?
When BCG vaccine is given to a child for the immediate period until up to 24 hours there may be a small swelling at the site of the injection which may disappear over next 24 hours.
3 weeks after the BCG vaccine – parents may notice that there is a small swelling at the site of the injection This is the normal BCG reaction.
This swelling develops into a pus point for the next three weeks and takes almost 3 months to heal Parents are requested not to fiddle with this swelling because if you try to remove the pus or do any other manipulation of the swelling it can cause complications of the vaccine.
There is relatively no side effect involved or very little trouble when the vaccine is given. There is no fever or pain at the site at that time or any time later.
However it is important to take care of the vaccine site properly otherwise the vaccine can spread to deeper structures which may cause swelling in the arm pit and that may be a problem later
What is the BCG vaccine scar?
The pus point that is formed at the site of BCG injection – heals and turns into a scar over the next three weeks. The scar is evidence that the vaccine has created the normal reaction that it is supposed to in the body.
How long does BCG protection last?
BCG vaccine is a vaccine which gives a long-lasting memory. The protection is said to be life-long.
We do not have to repeat BCG on repeated occasions like other vaccines