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Importance: Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination is commonly delayed in infants who are preterm and have low birth weights (LBW) despite the association of early vaccination with better vaccination coverage and potentially nonspecific benefits for survival. Objective: To determine the safety, immunogenicity, and protective efficacy against tuberculosis (TB) of BCG vaccination given at or before 7 days after birth vs vaccination more than 7 days after birth among infants who are preterm and/or had LBW. Data Sources: Searches of Medline, Embase, and Global Health databases were conducted from inception until August 8, 2017. Study Selection: Clinical trials, cohort studies, and case-control studies that included infants who were preterm and/or had LBW and reported safety, mortality, immunogenicity, proxies of vaccine take, and/or efficacy against TB. Data Extraction and Synthesis: Two authors independently extracted data and assessed the quality of the studies. Data extracted included demographics, covariates, sources of bias, and effect estimates. Meta-analysis was performed using a random-effects model. Main Outcomes and Measures: Safety, mortality, immunogenicity, or other proxies of vaccine take, such as tuberculin skin test (TST) conversion and efficacy against tuberculosis. Results: Forty studies were included in a qualitative synthesis; infants who were preterm (born at 26-37 weeks' gestational age) and/or had LBW (0.69-2.5 kg at birth) were included. The BCG vaccine was administered at or before 7 days to 10 568 clinically stable infants who were preterm and/or had LBW; vaccination was administered to 4310 infants at varying times between 8 days and 12 months after birth. Twenty-one studies reporting safety found no cases of BCG-associated death or systemic disease in 8243 infants. Four studies reported no increase in all-cause mortality for infants who had LBW and who received early BCG vaccination compared with infants who had LBW with later vaccination or BCG-vaccinated infants of normal birth weight. Four studies reported lymphadenitis incidence; combined, these reported 0% to 2.9% incidence of vaccination within 7 days and 0% to 4.2% of vaccination after 7 days. Meta-analysis of 7 studies revealed no differences between early and delayed BCG vaccination for scar formation (n = 515; relative risk [RR], 1.01 [95% CI, 0.95-1.07]) or TST conversion (n = 397; RR, 0.97 [95% CI, 0.84-1.13]). Published data were insufficient to assess immunogenicity or protective efficacy against TB disease. Conclusions and Relevance: Early BCG vaccination in healthy infants who are preterm and/or had LBW has a similar safety profile, reactogenicity, and TST conversion rate as delayed vaccination. Based on current evidence, early BCG vaccination in stable infants who are preterm and/or have LBW to optimize uptake is warranted.

Original publication




Journal article


JAMA Pediatr

Publication Date





75 - 85