Tuesday 28 January 2020

Supply problem with TB jab means babies unprotected

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

HUNDREDS of newborns missed out on the vaccine to prevent TB and are having to be given "catch-up" jabs.

Hospitals and health clinics, which administer the BCG vaccines, were hit with a shortage of the jab during the summer - forcing parents to postpone the vaccinations until their first GP visit at around two months.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed there were problems with supplies, but insisted these have now been resolved and the stocks are being distributed.

However, it means some babies are still not protected from the disease which is diagnosed in around 400 people annually.

The delays means that babies who missed out will have to get the BCG jab along with their first set of jabs in the GP surgery at around two months.

They will also need the six in one vaccine to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hib, polico, hepatitis B and pneumococcal disease.

The shortage of vaccines was felt across Europe and priority had to be given to those at greatest risk, such as babies born into families who come from countries where TB is endemic.

BCG vaccination is particularly important for babies whose parents recently arrived from countries with high levels of TB.

It is also important for children who have come into close contact with somebody infected with respiratory TB.

Temple Street paediatrician Professor Alf Nicholson told the Irish Independent the delay in vaccinations for TB comes at a time when the rate of TB in this country is low.

The vaccine contains a weakened form of the bacteria that causes TB to stimulate the immune system. The BCG vaccine is given in the upper left arm.

Health authorities here recommend that newborn babies get the BCG vaccine in the maternity hospital or HSE clinic.

TB is a bacterial infection that can affect any part of the body, but usually the lungs. TB is spread by close contact with an infectious person.

The main symptoms include coughing up phlegm, coughing up blood, loss of weight, fever and heavy night sweats.

The vaccine is 70pc-80pc effective against the most 
severe forms of TB, such as TB meningitis in children. It is less effective in preventing respiratory disease, which is the more common form in adults.

Irish Independent

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