5 Important Facts about the BCG Vaccine for the Prevention of Tuberculosis

5 Important Facts about the BCG Vaccine for the Prevention of Tuberculosis

Bumisuka.com – 5 Important Facts about the BCG Vaccine for the Prevention of Tuberculosis. D last September 2022, the Indonesian government expressed its desire to take part in a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine clinical trial. The testing process was carried out by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Welcome Trust. Referring to the website of the Indonesian Ministry of Health, this country ranks 3rd in the world with the highest number of TB cases, reaching 824 thousand.

No less important than fighting COVID-19, we also need to be vigilant about TB disease. The vaccine used to prevent or protect the body from TB is the Bacille Calmette-Guerin or BCG vaccine. How does this vaccine work and are there certain groups that it is highly recommended to get? Here’s the explanation!

1. Who created the BCG vaccine?

The BCG vaccine was created by two French scientists named Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin. Initially, this vaccine was tested on livestock in Lille, France before finally being given to humans.

Reported by the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2013, the administration of the BCG vaccine was first carried out by Benjamin Weill-Halle who was assisted by Raymond Turpin at the Charité hospital in Paris. The BCG vaccine is given orally to babies whose mothers have tuberculosis.

2. Composition of the BCG vaccine and how to obtain it

The BCG vaccine uses attenuated live bacteria (attenuated vaccine) with the aim of stimulating the body’s immune system without causing disease to people who receive the vaccine. Quoted from the Vaccine Knowledge Project-Oxford Vaccine Group, the BCG vaccine used in England uses Mycobacterium bovis. This is a bacterium that causes tuberculosis in animals, such as cattle.

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Still referring to the same source, the BCG vaccine used in England also contains the following ingredients:

  • Sodium, potassium, and magnesium salts
  • glycerol
  • Citric acid

The composition and/or brand of the BCG vaccine used by other countries may differ from the BCG vaccine used in the UK. We can ask the doctor first, especially if the child or person concerned has a history of allergies. It should be noted that the BCG vaccine is one of the mandatory immunizations other than polio and hepatitis which is given to infants and toddlers in Indonesia.

3. The recommended group to get the BCG vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (CDC) stated that the BCG vaccine is not widely used or used in the US. However, it is usually given to infants and young children living in countries where TB cases are common. In addition to infants and young children, medical personnel who work in countries with high TB ​​rates are also advised to get the BCG vaccine.

Children who are advised to get the vaccine are those who have negative TB skin test results, live with parents with TB disease, and/or parents who have genetic resistance to TB drugs. The drugs are isoniazid and rifampin. Both children and adults who will get the vaccine must take the test first.

Quoting the website of the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency of the Republic of Indonesia (BPOM), a person with a medical history or working conditions like the following should get the BCG vaccine, especially if the baby did not get the vaccine.

  • Infants and toddlers (0-12 months) living in areas with a high TB ​​case rate of more than 40 per 100 thousand population.
  • Age 0-16 years living with parents or grandparents who were born in areas with high TB ​​cases.
  • Newcomers (immigrants) aged less than 16 years and previously born or lived more than 3 months in areas with high TB ​​cases.
  • Medical personnel working with infected patients.
  • Adults aged less than 35 years whose profession is related to animals, such as veterinarians, work with animals that are susceptible to infection by bacteria that cause tuberculosis.
  • Adults aged less than 36 years who have direct contact with patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis.
  • Adults working in prisons, nursing homes and refugee camps such as shelters.
  • Adults aged less than 35 years and wishing to work or live in a country with high TB ​​rates.
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4. Side effects after getting the BCG vaccine

Side effects that can occur after getting the BCG vaccine according to the UK’s National Health Service website include:

  • Feeling sore in the part of the body where the vaccine was injected
  • Have fever and headache
  • Swelling of the glands under the armpit on the arm that received the injection
  • Injection marks can cause scars

Rare reactions that can occur after a vaccine include:

  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction such as vomiting, nausea, difficulty breathing, and skin rash)
  • Infected with tuberculosis
  • Bone inflammation

5. Adult guidance on post-vaccine tuberculosis

The BCG vaccine given to children can provide as much as 80 percent protection from the risk of being infected with TB, especially for the type of TB meningitis. The UK’s National Health Service page adds that the BCG vaccine is less effective at protecting adults from the risk of developing pulmonary tuberculosis.

Some steps that we can apply everyday to protect ourselves from TB are by:

  • Ensuring air circulation in the house is running well, for example opening windows every morning.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid direct contact with TB sufferers.
  • Immediately consult a doctor if you have other diseases such as HIV or diabetes and suspect that you have contracted tuberculosis.
  • If you find yourself experiencing an illness such as a cough that doesn’t go away (more than 3 weeks), or has just recovered and then coughs again, immediately consult a doctor.
  • Make it a habit to wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • If you are sick, always wear a mask to prevent transmission and don’t move outside the home.
  • Eat nutritious food to maintain body immunity.
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The WebMD page says someone who has TB bacteria in the body but is not active, cannot transmit TB to other people. However, the doctor will still ask the person to take medication to prevent active TB bacteria. To find out if someone has latent TB or inactive TB bacteria, that person needs to do a TB skin test or blood test for TB at the nearest clinic or hospital.

BCG is part of the immunization program for infants and toddlers. Although this vaccine is less effective at protecting adults from pulmonary TB, it can protect infants and young children from TB meningitis.

Adults can practice a healthy lifestyle to avoid tuberculosis. Starting from not smoking, using a mask when you are sick, and immediately go to the doctor if the cough doesn’t stop or bleeding is accompanied by chest pain.

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