Cases in Taiwan of osteomyelitis developing as a result of receiving a BCG vaccination are much lower than the WHO’s estimate, the Centers for Disease Control said in response to a recent case where a child became very ill after receiving a BCG vaccine injection.
The three-and-a-half-year-old girl’s mother said the child received the BCG vaccine, which offers protection against tuberculosis (TB), soon after birth, but started to develop an inexplicable fever when she was one-and-a-half-years old.
The girl’s fever did not subside until she was given anti-TB drugs.
Later examinations found that [the TB infection had] caused her seventh, eighth and ninth thoracic vertebrae to fester, due to the BCG vaccine,” said the mother, surnamed Tseng (曾).
The girl now has to wear an iron back brace at all times, except when she sleeps.
The disease control authority said the nation’s disease surveillance data show that the risk of BCG osteomyelitis in Taiwan, at 56 cases per million doses of vaccine administered, is lower than the 700 per million estimated by the WHO.
The data also show that the onset of the complications on average occurs six months to two years after the shot has been administered.
The agency advises parents of children aged between two and three who have received the BCG vaccine to seek medical attention if their children started to exhibit symptoms of osteomyelitis, such as local swelling, limb weaknesses or unsteady walking, and inform the doctor of the BCG shot schedule.
“We would give the children anti-TB drugs once we’ve made sure that they had an infection caused by the BCG vaccine. In our experience, most of [the infections] would be cured and leave almost no aftereffects,” National Taiwan University Hospital’s Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases head Huang Li-min (黃立民) said.