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According to minutes of last December’s meeting of the National Immunisation Programme, seen by the Medical Independent (MI) following a Freedom of Information request, the BCG vaccine was discussed, with members noting that “other countries are buying Bulgarian stock”.
A spokesperson for the HSE told MI it expects new stock of BCG from a licensed supplier in the first quarter of 2018.
Currently, there is a worldwide shortage of the BCG vaccine, which has not been available in Ireland since the end of April 2015.
There is only one licensed supplier of the BCG vaccine to Ireland.
In a written parliamentary response in July, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the HSE had also asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), which licenses and regulates all human medicines in Ireland, to source an alternative supplier of the BCG vaccine.
“Efforts have been made to find a company who can provide the vaccine for use in Ireland which satisfies all the HPRA requirements on safety and efficacy but no suitable alternative BCG product has been found. The supplier has indicated that supplies of the vaccine are not expected to be delivered into Ireland until early 2018,” stated Minister Harris.
The BCG vaccine is given to protect babies against TB. However, according to the HSE’s website, the number of TB cases for the years 2014 and 2015 was at the lowest level since records began. “Most European countries do not give BCG vaccine to all babies,” it stated.
“The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), an independent expert group on immunisation, and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) have both recommended that BCG vaccine does not now need to be given routinely to all babies in Ireland.”