Abstract

Background

Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination against tuberculosis (TB) is widespread in high-TB-burden countries, however, BCG vaccination policies in low-burden countries vary. Considering the uncertainties surrounding BCG efficacy and the lower likelihood of TB exposure in low-incidence countries, most have discontinued mass vaccination, choosing instead a targeted vaccination strategy among high-risk groups. Given the increased risk of TB infection in Canadian Indigenous communities compared to the general Canadian population, these communities are a pertinent example of high-incidence groups in an otherwise low-burden country, warranting particular consideration regarding BCG vaccination strategy. This systematic review aims to synthesise and critically appraise the literature on BCG vaccination strategies in high-risk groups in low-incidence settings to provide policy considerations relevant to the Canadian Indigenous context.

Methods: A literature search of the Medline and Embase databases was conducted, returning studies pertaining to BCG vaccine efficacy, TB incidence under specific vaccination policies, BCG-associated adverse events, and vaccination policy guidelines in low-burden countries. Study screening was tracked using the Covidence systematic review software (Veritas Health Innovation, Melbourne, Australia), and data pertaining to the above points of interest were extracted.

Results

The final review included 49 studies, spanning 15 countries. Although almost all of these countries had implemented a form of mass or routine vaccination previously, 11 have since moved to targeted vaccination of selected risk groups, in most cases due to the low risk of infection among the general population and thus the high number of vaccinations needed to prevent one case in the context of low-incidence settings. Regarding identifying risk groups for targeted screening, community-based (rather than individual risk-factor-based) vaccination has been found to be beneficial in high-incidence communities within low-incidence countries, suggesting this approach may be beneficial in the Canadian Indigenous setting.

Conclusions

Community-based vaccination of high-incidence communities may be beneficial in the Canadian Indigenous context, however, where BCG vaccination is implemented, delivery strategies and potential barriers to achieving adequate coverage in this setting should be considered. Where an existing vaccination program is discontinued, it is crucial that an effective TB surveillance system is in place, and that case-finding, screening, and diagnostic efforts are strengthened in order to ensure adequate TB control. This is particularly relevant in Canadian Indigenous and other remote

Northern Pix [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

or under-served communities, where barriers to surveillance, screening, and diagnosis persist.

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Citation:  Faust, L., Schreiber, Y. & Bocking, N. A systematic review of BCG vaccination policies among high-risk groups in low TB-burden countries: implications for vaccination strategy in Canadian indigenous communities. BMC Public Health 19, 1504 (2019) doi:10.1186/s12889-019-7868-9

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