Worried parents have been flocking to a West Midlands private clinic to pay for TB jabs their children can no longer receive in school.

During the last three months, 90 schoolchildren from Birmingham and the Black Country have received the BCG vaccination at the Premier Medical Centre in Station Road, Knowle.

The centre's TB vaccination clinic was set up following Government proposals to scrap its policy of vaccinating every schoolchild.

Instead, only people in high risk groups have been given the jab, even though the West Midlands has the second highest rate of TB in the country.

For £25, each patient has a skin test to see if they require the vaccination. If they do, they have to pay an additional cost of £20.

According to Health Protection Agency statistics, 208 people from the Black Country and 706 across the West Midlands were diagnosed with TB in 2001.

The following year, there were 261 and 798 respectively and in 2003 a slight dip with 248 people and 781.

In 2004, 271 cases were reported in the Black Country and 922 in the West Midlands.

Judy Meads, director of the Premier Medical Centre, said: "Three to four months ago, we heard they stopped doing the BCG vaccine at school.

"Many parents approached us and asked if we were going to be doing BCGs. They said, 'We want to get our children vaccinated even if we have got to pay'.

"So specialists trained all our practice nurses to do this vaccination and now anybody can come along to have the vaccination at the clinic.

"As much as we would like to do this for free, we do have to charge as we have to pay for the vaccine.

"We believe it should be done for free."

Last Thursday, a petition signed by 2,500 for the re-introduction of the BCG, was handed to the Prime Minister's office by Mavis Hughes, the Conservative councillor for Wednesbury in Sandwell.

Coun Hughes said "Our children travel in to the cities on the bus, metro and train with people who could have TB," she said.

"If we carry on injecting children, that will give them the security of knowing they have cut their chances of catching it."

But a spokeswoman for the TB Alert charity said the removal of the previous BCG programme was understandable.

She said: "In the UK we have been experiencing an increase in cases since 1987, where figures reached their very lowest and that was with the BCG programme.

"It is good that children who are deemed to be at risk are given it and we understand the logic behind the new proposals.

"There are 7,000 to 7,500 reported cases of TB each year in the country but we have a population of 60 million.

"The best way to stop an increase is to get people diagnosed earlier. Not everybody is infectious but those who are can be put on treatment and the cycle would be stopped that way." A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the new strategy targeted risk groups such as babies in areas with high rates of TB.

She said: "TB generally requires prolonged close contact with a person with infectious TB in order to be passed on. We are working hard to drive down levels of TB in this country, most of which are in London."


* Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious, re-emerging, bacterial illness, which is spread mainly by coughs and sneezes. It is found worldwide

* It is also known as consumption and until the 1950s, there was no cure or treatment for it

* Although it is mainly associated with the lungs and bones, it can affect any human organ

* There are two forms of TB. The first is the TB infection, which most sufferers have. This has no symptoms and cannot be spread to other people

* The second type is the TB disease, or the active type. People with symptoms of this form of TB can spread it

* Symptoms include a persistent cough which lasts longer than two weeks, chest pain and coughing up blood or phlegm

* Other symptoms include weakness, tiredness, weight loss, chills, fever and night sweats

* The infection is diagnosed by a skin test and the disease by a chest x-ray or sputum sample

* If left untreated, a person with TB can infect 15 people in a year. Complications include chronic weakening of the lungs, damage to other organs and death

* Approximately eight million new cases of the TB disease are diagnosed each year across the world

* The Department of Health reports a 25 per cent increase in the disease during the last ten years, with 6,500 cases now being reported each year

* According to World Health Organisation (WHO), a third of the world's population has TB and almost 5,000 die from the disease everyday