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Adult suffers fever, complications after injection with TB vaccine meant for infants

A BCG vaccine dose and the apparatus for administering it are shown in this photo taken from Japan BCG Laboratory's website.

TOKYO -- A person over the age of 20 developed a fever, hives and bloody urine after being administered a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine intended for infants, apparently trying to prevent novel coronavirus infections, the health ministry revealed on April 10.

The subcutaneous injection of the Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine was likely a medical error, as the medical institution that administered it does not deal with BCG vaccines. The vaccine is generally given to babies under 1 year old.

There is a shortage of the vaccine for infant use, and the only domestic manufacturer is calling on doctors and other health professionals to halt administrating the vaccines for non-intended uses.

The liquid vaccine is placed directly onto the skin of a person's upper arm, and thin needles are used to prick the skin to deliver a small amount of the vaccine. The instructions state explicitly that it must not be injected. According to the health ministry, the individual was given an injection of the whole amount. They later went to the emergency room after developing a fever and other symptoms.

Some observers have said the BCG vaccine may be effective in preventing the novel coronavirus, and research is also being conducted overseas. According to manufacturer Japan BCG Laboratory, shipments of the vaccines increased about threefold from usual volumes in late March. The laboratory is currently withholding shipments to secure supplies for infants. As it is the only manufacturer in Japan, and vaccines are produced over a period of at least eight months based on the number of births in the country, it cannot respond to a sudden rise in demands.

BCG vaccine products have not arrived at some medical facilities in Tokyo, and the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association voiced concerns to the health ministry on April 9 that medical institutions will not be able to carry out routine immunization.

Regarding BCG vaccination of adults, the Japan Pediatric Society warned, "We don't have sufficient knowledge (regarding its safety). It's possible that people who are already immune will show adverse effects."

(Japanese original by Go Kumagai, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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