BCG Immunisation

BCG immunisation protects against tuberculosis (TB). It is routinely offered to people aged 10-14 as part of the childhood immunisation programme. Some new-born babies who are at particular risk are also immunised with BCG.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by a bacterium (germ) called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is a major cause of illness world-wide. Although it can affect any part of the body, the common illness is a lung infection. It is often passed from family members to each other through coughing. If you get TB, treatment is available. However, the treatment is not easy and prevention is best.

The main impact on prevention in the UK was made by better housing and sanitation conditions over the last 70 years or so. Immunisation has also played a role in reducing this illness.

Who should be immunised against TB?

In the UK immunisation is offered to:

Tuberculin testing

A few days before immunisation with BCG you are given an injection into the skin of part of the TB germ. This is called the tuberculin test. The injection site is examined a few days later. In brief:

The BCG vaccine

The BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) was introduced into the U.K. in 1953. The vaccine has modified small amounts of the TB bacterium. The injection is usually given into the left upper arm. The vaccine is thought to give more than 70% protection against TB. Over many years it has been shown to be a safe vaccine.

After having the injection, it is normal to develop a red lump over the injection site. This may increase in size for a few weeks before settling down into a scab. It is not necessary to cover the site with a bandage unless it oozes. If this happens, use a dressing just until the oozing stops. After several weeks the scab goes and you are left with a small scar.

Are there any possible side-effects from BCG immunisation?

See a doctor if you have concerns about any reactions following immunisation.

Who should not have BCG immunisation?

You should not have BCG immunisation:

Further information

Information on immunisation from the NHS aimed at the general public -

Immunisation Against Infectious Disease (The Green Book) -
From the Department of Health. Aimed at health professionals but of interest to all.

© EMIS and PIP 2004   Updated February 2004   PRODIGY Validated