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Giving up TB Vaccinations Increases Lymph Node Infections

The decision to stop routine vaccinations of babies against tuberculosis has led to a surge in lymph node infections. The cases of infection with the largely harmless nontuberculous mycobacteria have caused worry among parents because they give a positive result in tuberculosis tests. However, there has not been an increase in cases of real tuberculosis.

Tuberkuloosirokotteen saanut vauva hoitopöydällä.
Image: YLE

The Leino family in Tampere had a scare when they noticed an infection in the neck of their small child. The health clinic told them simply to monitor its progress. The boil nevertheless grew and popped open. When a tuberculosis test gave a positive result, the child was put into isolation.

“They said that this certainly is not tuberculosis, but that all options need to be ruled out. I had a fright when one doctor said after taking a blood test that this is a clear case of tuberculosis,” Helena Leino says.

The infection was nevertheless caused by the relatively harmless nontuberculous mycobacteria, which is not contagious. A few dozen cases a year are expected to appear in Finland, mainly because children are no longer routinely given the tuberculosis vaccine, which also protects against mycobacteria.

Many Doctors Unfamiliar with Mycobacteria

Paediatrician Harri Saxen of the Children’s Clinic at the Helsinki University Central Hospital has been informing Finnish doctors on the matter.

“It may be that not even all doctors know about this. There has been so little time since the tuberculosis vaccine was given up, and these cases have started to emerge. For instance, at the Children’s Clinic we have had five cases in the past year,” Saxen says.

End of Vaccinations Brought No Surge of TB

The end of vaccinations for tuberculosis did not bring about an increase in cases of actual tuberculosis among children. The disease still exists in Africa and Russia, and many immigrant children are still vaccinated in Finland. Terhi Kilpi of the National Institute for Health and Welfare emphasises, however, that immigration does not pose an additional risk for tuberculosis among Finns.

“This has been seen very well in Sweden. Tuberculosis among the population has become increasingly rare, even though the country has taken in immigrants for decades. It should also be noted that young children with tuberculosis do not infect others,” Kilpi explains.

Finland stopped routinely vaccinating children against tuberculosis in 2006 because it was found to cause more harm than good, with bone infections as a possible side effect.

Sources: YLE

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