Author:Dr. P. Siva Bharathi, M.D (Peds), AB (USA).
BCG (Bacille Calmette Guerin) is a live attenuated vaccine for tuberculosis (TB). This vaccine does not completely protects children from accruing this disease, but has shown to prevent serious form of TB like meningitis (involvement of brain and spinal cord) and Miliary disease (spread of TB from lungs to other parts of the body)
Indian Academy of pediatrics recommends giving BCG vaccine in the first 15 days of birth. If not given at birth then this should be given as early possible. If BCG has to be given after 6 months then a Mantoux test (Skin test for TB) is done and BCG is given only it the mantoux test is negative.
BCG is usually given into the skin over the left arm. No antiseptic should be used at the site of injection and you can use normal saline or plain water to clean the area.
You can expect a small swelling developing at the injection site at about 6-8 weeks, which grows in size to form a nodule, which breaks open and can discharge some fluid forming an ulcer. This ulcer will ultimately heal forming a lifetime scar at the injection site.
Keep the ulcer clean, using a gentle soap and water. Do not use any antibiotic or antiseptic cream.
If no ulcer and finally no scar is formed by 6 months of age, then talk to your doctor about this. Your doctor might do a TB skin test (Mantoux test) and if it is negative then he will repeat BCG vaccine.
BCG dose not protect you child from accruing the TB infection but it protects from its serious forms of TB. BCG does not protects TB in lungs (Adult form of TB).
Rarely in 1-2% of babies who receive BCG vaccine will develop swelling of the local gland and some time this may be painful to the child and can even break and form an ulcer underneath the arm. Consult your doctor if this happens.