The BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) helps protect a baby against tuberculosis (TB).
TB is a serious infectious disease. TB can progress rapidly, particularly in young children and infants, and can lead to TB meningitis (swelling of the lining of the brain) in babies.
In young people and adults it usually affects the lungs, but can also affect the:
Most people in the UK recover fully after treatment, but this usually takes several months.
How common is TB?
TB isn't a common disease. In Scotland, fewer than 300 new cases of TB are diagnosed every year.
Cases of TB can be found all over the world, with some countries experiencing high rates of TB.
The risk of getting TB is higher for people who have lived or worked in countries with high rates of TB.
An up-to-date list of countries with high rates of TB is available on the GOV.UK website.
Who is offered the vaccine?
The BCG vaccine is offered to babies who are more likely to come into contact with someone with TB. This is because they either lived in an area with high rates of TB, or their parents or grandparents came from a country with high rates of TB.
A baby is eligible for the BCG vaccine if:
they have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country with a high rate of TB
you and the baby live or plan to live for more than three months in an area with a high rate of TB in the near future
anyone in your house, or anyone else who is likely to have prolonged contact with the baby, has TB, has had it in the past, or was born in a country with a high rate of TB
If you are unsure if a baby meets these criteria, please speak to a health professional.
When will a baby be immunised?
A baby is likely to be identified as eligible and offered the vaccine soon after birth. However, the vaccine can be given at any time.
The vaccine is given while you hold the baby comfortably on your knee. The health professional will inject the vaccine just under the skin of the upper part of the baby’s left arm.
If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the BCG vaccine, phone:
your local health board
the NHS inform helpline
Source: NHS Inform
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