BCG Vaccination

Empowering Immunity with a Milder Form of Tuberculosis BCG Vaccination 

The BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine protects individuals against tuberculosis (TB), a serious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs but can also impact other parts of the body. Introduced as part of the UK’s public health strategy in 1953, the use of the vaccine has evolved over the years. Routine vaccination for teenagers in schools was discontinued in 2005, shifting to a targeted, risk-based vaccination programme.

Currently, in the UK, the BCG vaccine is administered by the National Health Service (NHS) to babies, children, and adults under the age of 35 residing in high-risk areas, including London. Key characteristics of the vaccine include:

  • It contains a weakened form of the tuberculosis bacterium.
  • It is a live vaccine.
  • It is free from Thiomersal and other preservatives.

Tuberculosis is marked by symptoms such as a persistent cough, often accompanied by blood, night sweats, fever, and unexplained weight loss. These symptoms may develop slowly, making early detection and prevention critical.

For those travelling overseas, TB transmission can occur in crowded or enclosed environments, particularly in areas with poor ventilation where the bacteria can remain airborne for several hours. High-risk areas often include parts of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe where TB prevalence is higher.

The BCG vaccine is administered only if deemed necessary following a comprehensive risk assessment and tuberculin skin test. Travellers under the age of 16, planning to live or work in a high-risk area for more than three months, are particularly encouraged to get vaccinated.

If you are planning to travel abroad, undergoing a full risk assessment is crucial to determine if the BCG vaccine is necessary. Private travel clinics are equipped to assess your risk and provide essential advice, ensuring you are protected against TB during your travels.

Resources and information for Tuberculosis and BCG Vaccination


Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional.  Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.