Fianna Fáil has expressed concerns following revelations of further delays in the availability of the BCG vaccine given to all babies to protect them against Tuberculosis.

A European-wide shortage of the vaccine has led to the process being completely stalled in Ireland since April.  According to the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, there are now further delays and it could be at least October before the BCG is available again.  This could be followed by lengthy delays due to the backlog.

It means that tens of thousands of babies in Ireland will be left unvaccinated for TB for months.

The Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy commented, “This vaccine is usually given to all babies in Ireland after birth, either in the maternity hospital or in the local health centre within their first month of life.  It’s usually the first vaccine that babies receive in the immunisation process to protect them against a range of illnesses.

“The ongoing BCG shortage is causing significant confusion among parents of newborns.  While there have been shortages of a couple of weeks in the past, it now looks like the process could be stalled for as long as 6 months.  This means that thousands of babies born since April are being left unprotected against Tuberculosis.  Many parents are now confused about how this affects the entire immunisation process and whether or not they can continue with the rest of the vaccination process for their young babies.

“The onus is on the Health Minister Leo Varadkar to explain to parents what is going on.  He needs to clearly outline how this shortage will affect newborn babies and explain to parents that they continue with the remainder of the immunisation process.  The Minister also needs to outline what measures are being taken to ensure that the backlog of babies waiting for the BCG will be cleared quickly.  After waiting for months to be protected against TB, babies should not be facing further delays as a result of problems with clearing the backlog.  Provisions must be put in place now to ensure that the HSE can administer the vaccine as quickly and efficiently as possible when it becomes available.

“As this is a reoccurring issue, I also want to know what efforts have been made to secure another supplier of the vaccine so that such protracted delays can be avoided in the future.”