Ireland has no vaccine to protect against TB – Minister

‘Stock expired in April 2015.’

‘Supply will not be available until at least late next year.’

‘Health Service Executive continuing to experience delays in procuring product.’

Hundreds of TB cases being notified to Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Sligo News File

A vaccine used to protect against tuberculosis hasn’t been available in Ireland for the last few years.

The issue was raised again in the Dail this week when Fianna Fail Deputy Jack Chambers asked if “immunocompromised groups of persons in need of immunisation from tuberculosis were being provided with the BCG vaccination.”

Catherine Byrne TD, Minister of State, Department of Health

Minister of State at the Department of Health Catherine Byrne said the Health Service Executive is continuing to experience ongoing delays in the supply of the vaccine.

BCG vaccine stock in all areas expired at the end of April 2015, she said.

“Since this problem became apparent, the HSE National Immunisation Office (NIO) has been in regular contact with the manufacturer of BCG vaccine to ascertain when the vaccine might be available.”

Byrne said there was only one licensed supplier of BCG vaccine to Ireland and this vaccine manufacturer had informed the NIO that the BCG vaccine would not be delivered into the country until late 2018 at the earliest.

She said, “The NIO and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) have sought an alternative supply of BCG vaccine that meets safety, quality and effectiveness standards and that could be used in Ireland. To date no appropriate alternative manufacturer has been found.”

According to the 2016 provisional report of Health Protection Surveillance Centre, 319 cases of TB were notified to the Centre. HSE East reported the highest number of cases 136 (42.6% of the total) with 36.4% of total cases being reported in Dublin.The highest proportion of cases occurred in those aged 25-34 years. Some 49.2% of all cases were foreign-born.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre 2017 report states that 241 cases of TB were notified to the centre in quarters 1 to 3 of the year. HSE East reported the highest number of cases at 136 (56.4% of total) The highest proportion of cases occurred in those 35-44 year age group (22.0%) and those aged 65 years and older (21.6%) Of the total 45.6% of cases were born in Ireland, 41.9% were foreign-born, and 12.4% did not report country of birth.

The World Health Organisation has stated that globally “there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases in 2016.” An estimated 1.7 million died from TB. In the same year, one million children (0–14 years of age) fell ill with TB. Of those, 250,000 children (including children with HIV associated TB) died from the disease.

“Seven countries accounted for the larger part of the total burden, with India bearing the brunt, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa.”