A BCG vaccine involves being inoculated with live, attenuated (weakened) TB bacteria. These ensure that your body makes antibodies against the bacterium. BCG vaccination does not provide full protection against developing tuberculosis, but does protect against possibly severe consequences of the disease, such as meningitis.
BCG vaccine for children
Babies and young children can become very ill if they get tuberculosis (TB). Therefore, in the Netherlands (and in many other countries), children whose parents come from a country where there is a lot of TB are vaccinated against this disease. Vaccination protects small children against TB meningitis, a dangerous disease of the brain and nervous system. The vaccination is offered at very young age. It can be given together with other childhood vaccines.
What happens during BCG vaccination?
BCG vaccination involves injecting a small amount of fluid containing attenuated TB bacteria into the skin of the left upper arm. A small wound can develop in the location of the vaccination after 4 to 8 weeks. Fluid or pus may issue from the wound. You can cover the wound with a dry piece of gauze. A small scar will remain after the wound has healed.
It takes about 6 to 8 weeks after the vaccination before tuberculosis resistance has developed.
More information about BCG vaccination can be found on the website of the KNCV Tuberculosis Fund.
Tuberculin skin test
Before vaccinating, a tuberculin skin test (Mantoux test) is often carried out to determine whether you are already resistant to tuberculosis. If you are, this means that you have undergone BCG vaccination before or been infected with TB. In that case, BCG vaccination is not necessary.