Letter, Sunday Times 15 April, 2001: False hope On TB

JOHN HUMPHRYS (Comment, last week) writes that the Americans would not touch TB vaccine (BCG), but it seems to do the trick here. It does not.

BCG, the most used vaccine in the world since it was introduced more than 50 years ago, has made no difference to TB in countries which rely solely on it to halt its spread. It has never been claimed to prevent TB, but even the evidence of its protectiveness is patchy and historical. And there have been no studies of its effectiveness in the past three decades.

It may leave an ugly scar and, indeed, do more harm than good. Further, as TB, with rare exceptions, is largely a disease of the elderly in the Western world, vaccinating children makes sense

TB in Britain is a legacy of its empire. As long as people from third world countries come and settle here, there cannot be a let-up in its spread.

People who come from high prevalence countries will continue to harbour TB germs in their bodies until they die.

The World Health Organisation has set its face against vaccination and routine screening. It advocates effective disease management — early diagnosis and supervised treatment — to contain it and avoid its spread to the host community. Vaccination wastes resources, gives false hope and distracts attention from what needs to be done.

Dr Surinder Bakhshi Consultant in Communicable