BCG Vaccine for Babies – Importance and Side Effects

5 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.

BCG vaccine for babies

Tuberculosis, abbreviated to TB, is a bacterial disease. It is dangerous and can even result in death. In India, we are yet to eradicate it. In this article, we’ll discuss what TB is, how dangerous it can be, what complications it causes, how to prevent it, the BCG vaccine for babies and the schedule, and all the other little details and care needed to prevent the disease.

TB is not eradicated yet from India. In India, around two lac children are infected by TB and this is the reason doctors recommend the BCG vaccine for babies.

In This Article

Tuberculosis in Newborns

Newborns, because of their weak immune systems, are very likely to get tuberculosis infection. Out of ten cases in India, one of them is a kid younger than four years. Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria causes this disease, and it affects the lungs most of the time. But it can lead to bloodstream infections, and infections in the spine, bones, bone marrow, and brain as well.

How Does a Baby Get TB?

There are many ways in which a baby can be exposed to tuberculosis bacteria. If the bacteria are suspended in the air, the baby can easily catch the infection.

  • Sometimes, if the mother contracts TB, the baby can be born with the infection.
  • By exposing someone suffering from TB, the baby can get the infection easily.
  • If you give your baby raw, unpasteurized milk, there are chances of getting TB. The cow may have TB bacteria in it.
  • During birth, if the infected fluid from the birth canal goes into the mouth of the baby, it can get infected.
  • Not maintaining general hygiene around the baby also ups the chances of the baby getting the infection.

How Can You Prevent Your Baby From Getting Infected With TB?

As already discussed, keeping good hygiene and preventing exposure to suspected people who might have TB infection are the primary things to follow to avoid your baby getting infected by the TB bacteria.

The doctors give the baby an antibiotic as soon as it is born. It prevents the TB infection from becoming active. Even if the baby is not ill or diagnosed with TB, the antibiotic is a preventive measure against TB infection.

But if you live in a developing country like India, where TB is a common disease, getting a BCG vaccine for babies is the best prevention tactic.

What is BCG Vaccine?

baby getting BCG vaccine

BCG, Bacille Calmette-Guerin, is a vaccine for tuberculosis. BCG vaccine for babies is given in regions where TB is still prevalent. It develops the immunity of the baby to fight against tuberculosis bacteria and helps prevent the infection from causing complications. It does not treat an existing TB infection, neither does it make the baby perfectly immune.

If there is an infection, the vaccine helps the body fight it with mild symptoms.

[Read : Hepatitis B Birth Dose Vaccination For Newborns]

BCG Vaccine for Babies: Who Should Get It?

According to the Universal Immunisation Program by the National Health Mission of India, every newborn baby should get the BCG vaccine at birth. If it is not possible at birth, the baby should get it as early as possible before it gets one year old.

BCG Vaccine for Babies: Who Should Not Get the Vaccine? Can You Delay the Vaccine?

After exposure to someone who had TB, or after showing the symptoms of it, no need to vaccinate the baby. Therefore, it’s important to get your baby tested for tuberculosis infection. The test is the Mantoux tuberculin skin test. If the baby contract tuberculosis before, it cannot get the vaccine.

Even if your baby is not infected but slightly ill with fever, cough, cold, or something else, you should delay getting the vaccine for the baby. Wait until the baby is fully healthy again and then go for the vaccination.

BCG Vaccine for Babies- Schedule and Dosage

There is no set schedule for the BCG vaccine. Usually, the baby gets it right after birth. It is an intradermal injection on the left upper arm. Intradermal means between the layers of the skin. The doses for a newborn and a month old and above baby are different:

  • For a newborn, 0.05 ml of vaccine is enough.
  • If the baby is one month old or older, it needs 0.1 ml of the vaccine.

As stated earlier, your baby must get the first dose right after birth or as early as possible before it turns one year old.

[Read : Polio Vaccines for Babies]

BCG Vaccine for Babies- Side Effects of the Vaccine

tired baby sleeping after BCG vaccine

Side effects of the BCG vaccine are similar to the side effects of most vaccines. Your baby may have:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen glands
  • Soreness and redness at the site of injection

There may be more severe side effects like inflammation of the bone and ulcers. But they are rare. BCG vaccine also leaves a small scar at the side of the injection.

However, there is a negligible chance of having an allergic reaction. But if treated immediately, the baby recovers from it without any adverse effects.

Does BCG Vaccine Always Leave a Scar?

BCG vaccine scar on baby

It is normal for a BCG vaccine to leave a scar at the site of injection.

When the vaccine is injected, there is bubble-like swelling at the injection site. A small spot is formed there, between two to six weeks after vaccination. This is the spot that turns into a blister and sometimes into a crusty scab. When that crusty scab peels off, it leaves a scar there, which is perfectly normal.

What if the Scar Doesn’t Form?

The scar doesn’t necessarily need to form. Even if there is a raised blister or just a spot at the injection site, it is normal. You do not need to vaccinate your baby again.

[Read : 10 Ways to Ease Your Baby’s Vaccination Pain]

Care You Need to Take After the Baby is Vaccinated

Because of the side effects, you need to pay a little more attention to your baby after it gets the vaccine. The baby may get irritable, itchy, and have pain at the vaccination site. So, you need to make it feel at ease. You can ask the doctor for medicine to give to your baby if it has a mild fever.

You can expect a scar on site when your baby gets the BCG vaccine. So, you need to take care of that as well. There are a few points that you can keep in mind:

  • Keep the injection site clean and dry.
  • If a scab starts developing, cover it with something that allows air to pass through.
  • Keep the baby from scratching or rubbing the bruise.
  • Sticking plasters, ointments, and oils is not advisable. They slow down the healing process and do not let the skin underneath breathe.

BCG for babies is one of the compulsory vaccines in India. We haven’t succeeded in making India TB-free. Therefore, it is better to take the vaccine.

Read Also: HiB Vaccine for Babies – Importance and Schedule

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Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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