TB is a serious infection that affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body, such as the brain ( meningitis ), bones, joints and kidneys.
The BCG vaccine protects against tuberculosis, which is also known as TB.
Who should have the BCG vaccine and when
The BCG vaccine (which stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine) is not given as part of the routine NHS vaccination schedule.
It’s given on the NHS only when a child or adult is thought to have an increased risk of coming into contact with TB.
The BCG vaccine should only be given once in a lifetime.
BCG for babies
BCG vaccination is recommended for babies up to 1 year old who:
- are born in areas of the UK where TB rates are high
- have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there’s a high rate of TB
- live with, or are close contacts of, someone with infectious TB
If the BCG vaccine is recommended for your baby, it will usually be offered at about 28 days old.
This may be offered at a hospital, a local healthcare centre or, occasionally, at your GP surgery.
BCG for children aged 16 and under
BCG vaccination may also be recommended for older children who have an increased risk of developing TB, such as:
- children who have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there’s a high rate of TB
- children who have recently arrived from countries with high levels of TB, including those in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, parts of southeast Asia, parts of South and Central America, and parts of the Middle East
- children who will be living with local people for 3 months or longer in countries with high rates of TB
- children who live with, or are close contacts of, someone with infectious TB
BCG for adults
BCG vaccination is rarely given to anyone over the age of 16 because there is little evidence it works very well in adults.
But it’s given to adults aged 16 to 35 who are at risk of TB through their work, such as some healthcare workers, veterinary staff and abattoir workers.
If you’re offered BCG vaccination as an adult, it will usually be arranged through your local occupational health department.