According to minutes of the meeting, seen by the Medical Independent (MI) following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the Committee noted that the ‘Guidelines on the Prevention and Control of Tuberculosis in Ireland 2010’ were produced by the HPSC and “while much of this remains current, there is need for review and updating, in particular regarding the role of BCG immunisation”.
The Committee further noted at the same meeting that “BCG is anticipated to become available by year’s end and guidance for its use is urgently needed”.
While at a February meeting of the National Immunisation Programme, minutes of which MI has seen following a FoI request, the Programme noted “BCG policy required”. In response, a spokesperson for the HSE said that it “would like to assure parents that the number of cases of TB is low in Ireland, and babies are not at risk of TB in Ireland. Most European countries do not give BCG vaccine to all babies.
“The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), an independent expert group on immunisation, and HIQA have both recommended that BCG vaccine does not now need to be given routinely to all babies in Ireland.
“The Department of Health has received the NIAC and HIQA recommendations. The Department of Health must make a decision on these recommendations for the HSE to implement.
“The HSE is awaiting instruction from the Department of Health. The NIO (National Immunisation Office) can only implement policy once it is instructed to do so by the Department of Health.”
In response to MI’s queries, a Department spokesperson said the “BCG vaccine stock in all areas expired at the end of April 2015 and as of today, this continues to be a problem for Ireland and other countries in Europe that use this licensed BCG vaccine.
“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. When there is confirmation of a date for a new supply, the HSE will be guided by the recommendations of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee on its administration.”