By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — About 30,000 adults and children who received a BCG vaccination against tuberculosis are to be tested by health boards throughout the country to see if the vaccine they were given was effective, Health Minister Michael Martin said Tuesday.
The move follows the withdrawal of two batches of British-made vaccine after they were found to be less potent than that which is normally administered.
Those who will be examined received the vaccine since April 4, 2000. If it emerges that the vaccine was ineffective, revaccination will be offered.
A batch of BCG vaccine was recalled last month after the Irish Medicines Board found it was less potent.
On July 31, the IMB suspended the BCG vaccine license held by Evans Vaccines, a subsidiary of PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, and is reviewing all licenses held by the company for products supplied to Ireland.
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“This action followed an on-site investigation by the IMB of the company’s facility in the UK,” the statement said.
The second batch of vaccine was found not to be potent enough following testing of it and four other batches.
“There is no health threat to persons who received vaccine from the two batches concerned, other than that they may not have received immunity from the vaccine,” the statement said.
Alternative supplies of vaccine have been secured from the Statens Serum Institute of Denmark and they will be available next month.
BCG vaccine is normally administered to children at birth in maternity hospitals and also to at-risk groups that had not previously been vaccinated.
Tuberculosis had been a major health scourge in the past. There were 6,795 cases in 1952.
A combination of better living conditions, antibiotics and BCG vaccine dramatically reduced the problem. There were 395 cases reported in 2000.