In April 1975, the mass vaccination of newborns against tuberculosis was replaced by selective vaccination of groups at risk. BCG coverage fell from more than 95% before 1974 to 1.8% between 1975 and 1982 and thereafter reached an average of 13.7% up to 1989. The cumulative incidence of tuberculosis before 5 years of age was estimated among children born in Sweden during periods of high, low and moderate increasing BCG coverage. The incidence figures per 100,000 children was 0.8, 3.9 and 2.9, respectively, for children born to Swedish parents and 2.6, 39.4 and 13.2, respectively, for those born to foreign parents. The observed incidence of tuberculosis among non-BCG vaccinated children born to Swedish parents was within the expected limits given by a prognostic model based on the natural change of the risk of infection. The effectiveness of the selective BCG vaccination programme, which was intensified after 1981 for the second generation of immigrants, was estimated to 0.82 (95% confidence interval 0.38, 0.95) assuming that there was no change of the risk of infection for children born to foreign parents over the period studied. From April 1975 to December 1989, tuberculosis was notified in 85 children born in Sweden during the same period, 7 of them were BCG vaccinated and 78 non-vaccinated, 45 were symptomatic, 3 of them with disseminated tuberculosis.