Australia has one of the lowest rates of Tuberculosis (TB) disease in the world, but it remains very common in some countries. TB is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB spreads through the air but it is not easy to catch. It affects the lungs in 70% of cases, but can also affect lymph nodes, the brain, kidneys, or spine.
It is more common for children to have TB that affects more than one part of the body (miliary TB) and brain inflammation (meningitis). As TB tends to be more serious in children, we recommend protection with BCG vaccine for children < 5-years of age travelling to countries with high rates of TB.
BCG stands for “Bacille Calmette-Guerin” and is named after Dr Calmette and Dr Guerin who developed the vaccine and it has been used since the 1920s to prevent TB. BCG vaccine was developed from a germ similar to TB called Mycobacterium bovis. It is a live –attenuated vaccine that has been processed so that it is not harmful to humans.
The BCG vaccine does not prevent someone being infected with the bacteria that causes TB, but it prevents the development of the disease. It is specifically designed to prevent TB in children and can be given from birth onwards. The World Health Organization currently recommends a single lifetime dose.
The BCG vaccine should be administered made 4-6 weeks prior to departure to give enough time for the vaccine to be effective.
The resources below include more information regarding BCG vaccine and what to expect.
- RCH BCG 10 vaccine fact sheet
- RCH Tuberculosis disease fact sheet
- BCG vaccine for Tuberculosis (TB) protection fact sheet
- BCG vaccine- what to expect? parent handout
- BCG clinics in Victoria
- Management, control and prevention of tuberculosis – Guidelines for health care providers
Reviewed by: Nigel Crawford (Director SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) and Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
Date: January 2018
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.