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GPs have accused the Government of sending out 'conflicting messages' after it scrapped universal BCG vaccination but said parents could still request the vaccine for their children.

The BCG schools programme is to be replaced with targeted vaccination of babies at the highest risk.

Babies from high-risk populations or those in local authorities with a tuberculosis incidence of over 40 per 100,000 will receive the vaccine from hospitals or community health visitors. But parents will be able to ask for the vaccine for their children even when falling outside the risk criteria.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC representative on the BMA's public health committee, said: 'It would be incongruous to on the one hand state a target population and on the other hand state parents could request a vaccination.'

Dr James Gillgrass, joint chief executive of Sussex and Surrey LMCs, said: 'I would take the view that I have no experience of it so I would immediately refer them on.'

One tuberculosis specialist warned vaccine services could be 'swamped' if GPs referred on parents who requested the vaccine.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, said some 18 local authorities were likely to qualify for automatic universal vaccination ­ the majority in London.

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