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Independents' Day

GPs urged to make sure high-risk babies get BCG

GPs have been urged to double-check babies at high risk of tuberculosis have received their BCG vaccinations after a three-year audit found only half of eligible babies were immunised.

Babies born to parents from areas of the world where tuberculosis is very prevalent ­ 40 cases per 100,000 people ­ should be vaccinated within their first three months. Some TB experts argue such babies should be vaccinated in the first few days.

'The coverage of this vaccination is not monitored by anyone,' said Dr Sanjeev Deshpande, study leader and consultant neonatologist at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Dr Deshpande, whose findings were published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (January), said although the primary responsibility lay with health visitors, GPs should check the BCG status of babies at the two-month routine immunisation appointment. His audit found BCG uptake was 70 per cent for infants of Indian subcontinent origin but just 29 per cent in other high-risk babies.

Dr Peter Davies, director of the TB research unit in Liverpool, agreed with the advice, saying: 'These kids are vulnerable from the moment they leave hospital.'

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