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BCG Vaccine

Here are some common questions about the BCG vaccine.

What is the BCG?

The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) helps protect children against tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an infection caused by a bacteria (Mycobacterium Tuberculosis).  Worldwide, tuberculosis causes more deaths than any other infectious disease.  It is spread between people by breathing in the bacteria through the air from someone who is infected.  Children and infants are at high risk of becoming unwell following exposure to tuberculosis. 


Does my child need a BCG?

According to Australian Government Department of Health recommendations, newborns and children under 5 years of age who will be travelling for extended periods, or living in countries or areas with a high rate of tuberculosis should receive a BCG vaccine. 

Countries with a high rate of tuberculosis include India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and many countries in Africa.  See here for a full list. 


When is the best time to have a BCG?

BCG vaccination should ideally occur at least 1 month before departure.  This will allow the body to develop an immune response to provide protection prior to travel.  Consideration should be given to future travel plans and for BCG to be given soon after birth.


What age can BCG be given?

BCG can be given from birth until 5 years of age.  In some cases, older children may receive the vaccine according to travel destination and duration.  


Will my child need a mantoux test (also known as tuberculin-skin-test or TST) prior to a BCG?

A Mantoux test is recommended in children:

  • Children of any age, if they have had previously travel overseas to a high risk country.  

  • With known exposure to someone with TB


Mantoux tests are available at our CPMG and affiliated Offspring Child Health clinics.


Can BCG be given with other vaccines?

BCG can be given at the same time as other vaccines.  Your doctor will discuss options with you. 


Is a gap needed before or after BCG and other vaccines?

BCG must be given at the same time, or 4 weeks apart from other "live-attenuated" vaccines:

  • 12- and 18-month-old National Immunisation Program scheduled vaccines (MMR, MMR-V)

  • Varicella vaccine

  • Yellow fever vaccine

  • Japanese Encephalitis vaccine (Imojev)

No gap is required between "inactivated" vaccines:

  • Birth, 2/4/6 month National Immunisation Program vaccines

  • Hepatitis A

  • Typhoid

  • Meningococcal B/Meningococcal ACWY


Is paracetamol required before BCG?

Paracetamol (Panadol) is not routinely required before BCG.  


What are side effects of BCG?

Like all vaccines, the BCG vaccine can cause side effects, but they're uncommon and generally mild.

​Most children develop a sore at the injection site after 2-4 weeks. Once healed, the sore may leave a small scar.


Why should we visit the Kids Travel Doc clinic for a BCG?

Children should receive the BCG vaccine from an experienced healthcare provider for several reasons:

  1. Proper Administration: The BCG vaccine requires a specific technique for administration, which involves the injection of the vaccine under the skin, rather than into a muscle. This requires proper training and experience, which we can provide. Improper administration can result in a less effective vaccine, or potentially adverse reactions.

  2. Accurate Screening: We are experienced in screening for tuberculosis when needed, which is important before administering the BCG vaccine.  Screening ensures that the child is not already infected with TB and that the vaccine is appropriate for their age and health status.

  3. Tailored Advice: We can also provide tailored advice for parents and caregivers on the risks and benefits of the vaccine, as well as information on how to reduce the risk of TB infection and other health risks when traveling or living in areas where TB is more common.

  4. Up-to-date Information: Our travel clinic will provide up-to-date information on any changes to BCG vaccine recommendations or availability in different countries, as well as any potential side effects or risks associated with the vaccine.

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