Adverse reactions to the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine in new-born infants-an evaluation of the Danish strain 1331 SSI in a randomized clinical trial

Vaccine. 2016 May 11;34(22):2477-82. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.03.100. Epub 2016 Apr 7.


Objective: To evaluate adverse reactions of the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Statens Serum Institut (SSI) (Danish strain 1331) used as intervention in a randomized clinical trial.

Design: A randomized clinical multicenter trial, The Danish Calmette Study, randomizing newborns to BCG or no intervention. Follow-up until 13 months of age.

Setting: Pediatric and maternity wards at three Danish university hospitals.

Participants: All women planning to give birth at the three study sites (n=16,521) during the recruitment period were invited to participate in the study. Four thousand one hundred and eighty four families consented to participate and 4262 children, gestational age 32 weeks and above, were randomized: 2129 to BCG vaccine and 2133 to no vaccine. None of the participants withdrew because of adverse reactions.

Main outcome and measure: Trial-registered adverse reactions after BCG vaccination at birth. Follow-up at 3 and 13 months by telephone interviews and clinical examinations.

Results: Among the 2118 BCG-vaccinated children we registered no cases of severe unexpected adverse reaction related to BCG vaccination and no cases of disseminated BCG disease. Two cases of regional lymphadenitis were hospitalized and thus classified as serious adverse reactions related to BCG. The most severe adverse reactions were 10 cases of suppurative lymphadenitis. This was nearly a fivefold increase compared to what was expected based on the summary of product characteristics of the vaccine. All cases were treated conservatively and recovered. Six of 10 (60%) families of children experiencing suppurative lymphadenitis compared to 117/2071 (6%) of those with no lymphadenitis indicated that the vaccine had more adverse effects than expected (p-value <0.001).

Conclusions and relevance: BCG vaccination was associated with only mild morbidity and no mortality. A higher incidence of suppurative lymphadenitis than expected was observed. All children were treated conservatively without sequelae or complications.

Trial registration: Trial registration number NCT01694108 at

Keywords: Adverse reactions; BCG; Children; Clinical trials; Non-specific effects; Vaccines.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • BCG Vaccine / adverse effects*
  • BCG Vaccine / immunology
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lymphadenitis / etiology
  • Male
  • Mortality
  • Mycobacterium bovis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control
  • Vaccination


  • BCG Vaccine

Associated data