New focus for TB vaccination

selective immunisation of people most at risk from tuberculosis (TB).

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In Wandsworth the school BCG programme, which tested all secondary school children and vaccinated most, is being replaced by selective immunisation of people most at risk from tuberculosis (TB). This is part of a new national system targeting those at greatest risk of contracting TB.

BCG clinics are being set up locally to immunise the following at risk groups:

* Babies (under 12 months) whose parents or grandparents were born in a country with high levels of TB;
* All unvaccinated immigrants from countries with high levels of TB.
They will also be identifing unvaccinated children who are at risk, and who would normally have had the BCG at school.

Professor Salman Rawaf, Director of Public Health for Wandsworth Teaching Primary Care Trust said, �This is a welcome approach to focus our services and expertise towards vaccinating those who have the greatest risk of developing TB at an early age. This will help to prevent people in our communities from catching a disease that can spread within a family.�

Dr Barry Walsh, Sector Immunisation Lead for the South West London Health Protection Unit said, �We take TB seriously in south west London, we feel the time has come to refocus the BCG programme to reflect the changing patterns of TB infection in south west London, which means we can better protect children and others who are at higher risk. We would like to reassure parents that stopping the school BCG programme will not increase their child�s chances of catching TB.�

The current programme for administering the TB vaccine known as BCG was introduced in the 1950s when the rate of infection was 50,000 per year. This has now fallen to just 7,000 per year. In south west London there has been a rise in TB since the 1990s however this has remained stable since 2002. In 2004 there were 339 cases of TB, this means that there are about 25 cases per 100,000 people, which is the lowest of any sector in London.

Although TB is a serious disease it is not as highly transmittable as many other infections. TB is caught after close and prolonged contact usually with an infected family member. It�s highly unlikely to catch TB from casual or social contact like talking to an infected person, working with them or travelling on the underground.

November 2, 2005