Hiqa says TB jab should be given to at-risk children only

Health watchdog recommends move against universal vaccination for all newborns

A decade-long national policy of vaccinating all newborns against tuberculosis (TB) should be ended in favour of selective vaccination of children in high-risk groups, the State’s health watchdog has advised.

Any change in strategy to selective vaccination must be supported by a clear commitment to enhanced TB control measures, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has told Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

The recommendation has been approved by the Hiqa board and presented to Mr Varadkar.

Hiqa’s Director of Health Technology Assessment Dr Máirín Ryan said: “A recommendation to switch to a policy of selective neonatal vaccination has been made based on the best available evidence. However, this is only recommended if appropriate preventative and protective measures are in place. If selective vaccination is adopted, the most efficient method of delivering the programme needs to be determined to ensure best use of available resources and to minimise the impact of discontinuing universal vaccination.”


Dr Ryan continued: "Selective vaccination would focus resources on those who are at higher risk of contracting TB; one in eight newborns will continue to be eligible for the vaccine. This includes infants born in, or whose parents are from, a country with a high incidence of TB, those in contact with patients with active respiratory TB, and members of an at-risk group, such as the Traveller community in Ireland. It would be important to consult with groups at higher risk to determine the most acceptable and efficient way to identify those eligible for vaccination."

The BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) was authorised for use in Ireland by the former Irish Medicines Board in 2001, and has been used in the vaccination programme from July 2002.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times