Except during a 1-year period when BCG vaccine was not routinely administered, annual coverage of infants with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) in Kazakhstan since 2002 has exceeded 95%. BCG preparations from different sources (Japan, Serbia, and Russia) or none were used exclusively in comparable 7-month time-frames, September through March, in 4 successive years beginning in 2002. Our objective was to assess relative effectiveness of BCG immunization.
We compared outcomes of birth cohorts from the 4 time-frames retrospectively. Three cohorts received vaccine from one of three manufacturers exclusively, and one cohort was not vaccinated. Cohorts were followed for 3 years for notifications of clinical TB and of culture-confirmed TB, and for 21 months for TB meningitis notifications. Prevention effectiveness based on relative risk of TB incidence was calculated for each vaccinated cohort compared to the non-vaccinated cohort.
Although there were differences in prevention effectiveness observed among the three BCG vaccines, all were protective. The Japanese vaccine (currently used in Kazakhstan), the Serbian vaccine, and the Russian vaccine respectively were 69%, 43%, and 22% effective with respect to clinical TB notifications, and 92%, 82%, and 51% effective with respect to culture confirmed TB. All three vaccines were >70% effective with respect to TB meningitis.
Potential limitations included considerations that 1) the methodology used was retrospective, 2) multiple risk factors could have varied between cohorts and affected prevention effectiveness measures, 3) most cases were clinically diagnosed, and TB culture-positive case numbers and TB meningitis case numbers were sparse, and 4) small variations in reported population TB burden could have affected relative risk of exposure for cohorts.
All three BCG vaccines evaluated were protective against TB, and prevention effectiveness varied by manufacturer. When setting national immunization policy, consideration should be given to prevention effectiveness of BCG preparations.