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Camden News - by TOM FOOT
Published: 16 April 2009
Parents: ‘Bring back TB jabs’

Infection cases spark pleas for tuberculosis immunisation for all schoolchildren

PARENTS are set to mount a legal challenge to bring back free TB immunisation jabs in Camden.

The compulsory vaccination of all of the borough’s school children against tuberculosis – known as the BCG and familiar by the lasting mark it often leaves on the upper shoulder – was scrapped in 2007.
Unlike other areas of the country, only “at risk” children with parents or grandparents born in countries where the disease is “prevalent” can now apply for the free jab at their local doctor’s surgery.
But following a TB outbreak at a Somers Town secondary school in October and new figures released to the New Journal showing there were 87 new infections in Camden last year, parents are in talks with lawyers about how they can force a return to the old system of widescale immunisation.
Lucy Anderson, Camden Council’s former education chief and a parent governor of Acland Burghley secondary school, said: “I wrote to the PCT asking them why I could not get my children vaccinated.
“Their response was basically that I could forget about it unless I was from the subcontinent.
“Shouldn’t we be protecting the whole population?
“The idea that all the children needing the vaccine will apply for it is ridiculous.
“If we are having TB outbreaks at Camden schools then I would say this is an issue that affects the whole community.”
TB was once a common killer but has since been virtually eradicated by the compulsory vaccination programme which began in 1953.
The disease, which can be caught through airborne germs from coughs and sneezes, can be treated as long as the symptoms are recognised at an early stage.
Government guidance encourages Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to meet high levels of demand and to act in areas where TB rates are above the national average. More than 40 per cent of all new cases recorded last year were in London.
Doctors estimate that around 8 per cent of Camden’s population are in the “at risk” category.
In October, six pupils at South Camden Community School in Somers Town were found to be infected leading to all pupils at the school being tested. It is feared many more “at risk” school children – who have come to this country in later life – are slipping through the net.
Dr Steve Amiel, representing Camden doctors on the London-wide Medical Committee, said: “TB is still a dangerous disease not just people from countries where it is endemic. It’s there in HIV and AIDS victims and people who have been in contact with it through just being unlucky.”
Doctors have said that medical opinion is divided on whether the BCG vaccine is the most effective way of preventing TB
In an annual report called “Tuberculosis – North Central London”, Camden PCT reported an increase in new cases of TB in children in 2007 but that the upward trend had slowed in the past five years.
An NHS Camden spokeswoman said she was not able to comment on recent concerns raised about TB and the BCG jab in Camden.

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