Long-term Efficacy of BCG Vaccine in American Indians and Alaska Natives: A 60-Year Follow-up Study

Naomi E. Aronson*, Mathuram Santosham, George W. Comstock, Robin S. Howard, Lawrence H. Moulton, Everett R. Rhoades, Lee H. Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations


Context: The duration of protection from tuberculosis of BCG vaccines is not known. Objective: To determine the long-term duration of protection of a BCG vaccine that was previously found to be efficacious. Design: Retrospective record review using Indian Health Service records, tuberculosis registries, death certificates, and supplemental interviews with trial participants. Setting and Participants: Follow-up for the period 1948-1998 among American Indians and Alaska Natives who participated in a placebo-controlled BCG vaccine trial during 1935-1938 and who were still at risk of developing tuberculosis. Data from 1483 participants in the BCG vaccine group and 1309 in the placebo group were analyzed. Main Outcome Measures: Efficacy of BCG vaccine, calculated for each 10-year interval using a Cox regression model with time-dependent variables based on tuberculosis events occurring after December 31, 1947 (end of prospective case finding). Results: The overall incidence of tuberculosis was 66 and 138 cases per 100000 person-years in the BCG vaccine and placebo groups, respectively, for an estimate of vaccine efficacy of 52% (95% confidence interval, 27%-69%). Adjustments for age at vaccination, tribe, subsequent BCG vaccination, chronic medical illness, isoniazid use, and bacille Calmette-Guérin strain did not substantially affect vaccine efficacy. There was slight but not statistically significant waning of the efficacy of BCG vaccination over time, greater among men than women. Conclusion: In this trial, BCG vaccine efficacy persisted for 50 to 60 years, suggesting that a single dose of an effective BCG vaccine can have a long duration of protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2086-2091
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number17
StatePublished - 5 May 2004
Externally publishedYes


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