100,000 babies lose out due to lack of TB jab
Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30
A huge backlog of more than 100,000 infants who have not received the vaccine to protect against TB will have built up by the time supplies become available again.
Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed that it will now be early 2017 before the BCG vaccine can be administered to all newborns.
A European shortage of the vaccine since April last year means around 70,000 babies have had to be put on hold for the vaccine.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person.
It can be cured with proper antibiotic treatment.
The minister said there is only one licensed supplier of the BCG vaccine to Ireland and to other countries within the EU.
"Since this problem became apparent, the HSE National Immunisation Office has been in regular contact with the manufacturer of BCG vaccine to ascertain when the vaccine might be available.
"The HSE has also asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), which licenses and regulates all human medicines in Ireland, to source an alternate supplier of the BCG vaccine.
" Efforts have been made to find a company who can provide the vaccine for use in Ireland which satisfies all the HPRA requirements on safety and efficacy."
BCG vaccination clinics in maternity hospitals and the HSE have had to be postponed until the new stock arrives, said Mr Harris in a parliamentary response to Tipperary TD Seamus Healy.
To date no suitable alternative BCG product has been found. Therefore the HSE has been unable to procure the BCG vaccine from any other source and still awaits the product from the HPRA licensed supplier of the vaccine.
The HSE has reassured parents that they should not be concerned as the number of cases of TB in Ireland has been falling.
While the incidence of TB in Ireland has been declining, more than 300 cases of the disease were diagnosed in 2015.
Over the last decade the number of cases of TB decreased from 450 in 2005 to 318 cases in 2015.
The incidence in foreign-born patients here was 16.5 per 100,000, while among Irish it was 4.1 per 100,000.
There was one case of multi-drug resistant TB and the highest number of patients were diagnosed in the east of the country. More than half the cases were diagnosed in men and the main age group were aged 25 to 34.