All You Need To Know About Tuberculosis (TB) and BCG TB Vaccine

All You Need To Know About BCG Tuberculosis (TB) Vaccine


Tuberculosis (TB) which is curable and preventable is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

According to WHO, about one-quarter of the world’s population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.

People infected with TB bacteria have a 5–15% lifetime risk of falling ill with TB. However, persons with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.


Who’s At Risk To Contact TB

  • All age groups.
  • Mostly adults in their productive years
  • People living in developing economies as over 95% of new cases of TB are from there.
  • People suffering from HIV and other related immune systems weakening diseases.
  •  Children
  • And Tobacco users


TB Facts

Source – World Health Organization


Symptoms and diagnosis

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Night Sweats
  • Weight loss


Tuberculosis symptoms

Source – WHO



The best form of treatment remains prevention and that’s were TB BCG vaccine comes in. TB is a treatable and curable disease.

Active, drug-susceptible TB disease is treated with a standard 6-month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision, and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.

Between 2000 and 2017, an estimated 54 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment.


Tuberculosis (TB) vaccine

A Tuberculosis (TB) vaccine called Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is given in many countries to prevent infection with TB. It usually is given to infants, although it may be given again at other times. BCG offers protection against TB in young children but typically does not offer continuing protection.


When given, this vaccine may or may not cause a positive skin test. Previous BCG vaccination should NOT stop a person from obtaining a TB skin test unless the person had a positive TB skin test reaction in the past.


Who should have the BCG (TB) vaccine?

BCG vaccination is only recommended on the routine national programme for immunization (NPI) for babies, children, and adults under the age of 35 who are considered at risk of catching tuberculosis (TB).

The BCG vaccine isn’t given to anyone over the age of 35, as there’s no evidence that it works for people in this age group.


Babies who should have the BCG vaccine

BCG vaccination is recommended by the WHO for:

  • all babies at birth.
  • are born in areas where the rates of TB are high, Nigeria inclusive
  • have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there is a high rate of TB


Older children who should have the BCG vaccine

BCG vaccination is recommended for all older children and adults at risk of TB, including:

  • older children with an increased risk of TB who were not vaccinated against TB when they were babies
  • anyone under 16 who has come from an area of the world where TB is widespread
  • anyone under 16 who has been in close contact with someone who has pulmonary TB (TB infection of the lung)


Adults aged 16 to 35 who should have the BCG vaccine

BCG vaccination is recommended for people aged 16 to 35 who are at occupational risk of TB exposure, including:

  • laboratory staff who are in contact with blood, urine and tissue samples
  • veterinary staff and other animal workers, such as abattoir workers, who work with animals that are susceptible to TB, such as cattle or monkeys
  • prison staff who work directly with prisoners
  • a staff of care homes for the elderly
  • a staff of hostels for homeless people
  • staff who work in facilities for refugees and asylum seekers
  • healthcare workers with an increased risk of exposure to TB
  • Travelers who should have the BCG vaccine
  • The BCG vaccine is also recommended for people under the age of 16 who are going to live with local people for more than three months in an area with high rates of TB.

Read Also: Immunization and Vaccines Schedules In Nigeria

Individual requests for BCG vaccination

If you want BCG vaccination for yourself or your child, you will be assessed to see if you are at high risk of catching TB. If you aren’t at risk, you won’t be eligible for BCG vaccination.

If you are at risk, you will be tuberculin tested and offered BCG vaccination according to local arrangements.

You can reach out to one of our healthcare professionals or patient engagement officer, drop a message online or visit one of our branches of the Outreach Women and Children Hospital, to determine if you are at risk of TB and also offer appropriate counseling and offer BCG vaccination.


The tuberculin skin test/Mantoux test

Before you have the BCG vaccination, you should be tested to see if you are already infected with or have active TB disease.

The test called the tuberculin skin test, or Mantoux test will be carried out before BCG vaccination if someone:

  • is six (6) years or over
  • is a baby or child under six with a history of residence or a prolonged stay (more than three months) in a country with a high rate of TB
  • has had close contact with a person with TB
  • has a family history of TB within the last five years

The Mantoux test assesses your sensitivity to a substance called a tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) when it’s injected into your skin.


The greater the reaction, the more likely it is that an individual is infected with or has active TB. In this case, the individual should not have the BCG vaccine, as it would have no clinical benefit and may cause unpleasant side effects.  If you have a strongly positive Mantoux result, you should be referred to a TB specialist team for further assessment.


If the Mantoux test is negative, you can go ahead and have the BCG vaccine.


Who should not have the BCG vaccination?

The BCG vaccine is not recommended for:

  • People who have already had a BCG vaccination
  • People with a past history of TB
  • People with a positive tuberculin skin test (Mantoux)
  • People who have had a previous anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) to any of the substances used in the vaccine
  • Newborn babies in a household where a case of TB is suspected or confirmed
  • People who have a septic skin condition at the site where the injection will be given
  • People with a weakened immune system, either as a result of a health condition such as HIV, treatments such as chemotherapy, or medicines that suppress the immune system, such as steroid tablets
  • People who have cancer of the white blood cells, bone marrow or lymph nodes, such as leukaemia or lymphoma
  • People who are seriously unwell (vaccination should be delayed until they recover)
  • Pregnant women


BCG vaccinations are not usually offered to people over the age of 16 and never over the age of 35, because the vaccine doesn’t work well in adults.


How well does the vaccine work?

The BCG vaccine contains a weakened strain of TB bacteria, which builds up immunity and encourages the body to fight TB if infected with it, without causing the disease itself.

The BCG vaccination is thought to protect up to 80% of people for up to 15 years.


Read Also: Immunization and Vaccines Schedules In Nigeria


Time To Vaccinate Yourself

Vaccination is one of the most successful and cost-effective ways to protect children’s health and their future. You can vaccinate yourself and family at any of our branches in Lagos.

Our doors are open every Saturdays – from: 9 – 4pm for immunization

Festac Outreach Women and Children Hospital
4th Avenue by 3rd Avenue Junction, Festac Town, Lagos.

Call: +234 8024327713, +234 7062180964, +234 8135996675, 07089758800,  +234 7068504696

Outreach Women and Children Hospital
125 Okota Road. Opp Slot. Okota. Isolo. Lagos.
Call: 014532865, +234 8068838225

Satellite Town
Outreach Specialist Hospital
23. Community Road, Beside First Bank,Abule ado. Satellite Town
Call: 07018179085 08035187189

By Dr David Olubukunmi Jesudemi

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