What you need to know:
- 10,950: Number of Ugandans who died of tuberculosis last year, a figure which is three times higher than the 3,628 people Covid-19 has killed since its outbreak in 2020.
The Ministry of Health is reviewing the recommendation from scientists that a booster shot for tuberculosis (TB) vaccine should be administered to all adolescents and adults to increase protection.
The scientists made the recommendation after discovering that the protection from the bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), the TB vaccine, is only strong among children under five years old.
This means the rest are at higher risk of contracting the disease, which kills 30 Ugandans daily. The vaccine is currently administered after birth to protect children from infection.
“The overall effectiveness of BCG vaccination against all tuberculosis was 18 percent. When stratified by age, BCG vaccination only significantly protected against all tuberculosis in children younger than five years,” the scientists wrote in the study led by Dr Leonardo Martinez of America’s Boston University.
Although the level of protection appears low, the scientists noted that BCG vaccination significantly protected against pulmonary tuberculosis among all 41,119 participants who were vaccinated.
“In the four studies with mortality data, BCG vaccination was significantly protective against death,” the researchers stated.
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Dr Mary Mudiope, one of the experts in the TB fight in the country, said yesterday that because of the low protection from the current vaccine, scientists are developing new vaccines that they hope will provide better protection against TB.
“The current BCG vaccine is meant to prevent us from severe form of TB disease. You can get infected but then you may not develop severe TB disease,” she said.
Dr Ivan Kimuli, a research fellow at Makerere University Lung Institute, said they initially thought that the protection from the vaccine was going on until 25 years.
Dr Stavia Turyahabwe, the commissioner for TB and Leprosy Control, said they will look at the report and come up with a clear position.
“It otherwise has not been necessary for a booster dose since it doesn’t stop TB infection and disease only meant to protect young children from severe TB disease,” she said.
10,950: Number of Ugandans who died of tuberculosis last year, a figure which is three times higher than the 3,628 people Covid-19 has killed since its outbreak in 2020.