Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that is spread through droplets from the coughs and sneezes of people with the condition. It can cause a cough, weight loss, and night sweats, and can usually be cured with antibiotics.

High risk areas: South America, Africa (sub-Saharan and north west) and the tropical Asia-Pacific regions, including the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia.

The TB vaccine may be recommended for:

  • anyone who has not been vaccinated, depending on where they are travelling to and what they will be doing, and
  • children under 16 years of age who are going to be living or working with local people in a high risk area for more than three months.

The vaccine

The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) provides protection against TB. The vaccine used to be given to all children at 15 years of age, but this was stopped in 2005.

If you need to be vaccinated against TB, you will first be given a Mantaux skin test. This checks how sensitive you are to the TB vaccine. Your skin reaction will be checked 2-10 days later. A positive reaction suggests that you have already been infected with the bacteria that cause TB and you may already be immune. If so, you will not need to have the vaccine.

If you have a negative result to the Mantaux test, you will be given the vaccine as a single injection. It provides 70-80% protection against TB.

The BCG can be given from birth, and children who are under six years of age do not usually need to have the Mantaux test first.