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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 18:14 GMT
New child jab for lethal disease
The new vaccine is being introduced from April
The UK childhood vaccination programme is being extended to include protection against a disease which causes blood poisoning, meningitis and pneumonia.

The Department of Health will announce next week that the pneumococcal disease vaccine will be given from April in a baby's first year, the BBC has learned.

The disease affects 400 children each year, killing 50 and leaving many more severely disabled.

Doctors and campaigners have welcomed the plan to bring in the two-dose jab.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing children sick when it is preventable
Professor Adam Finn
Meningitis expert

The vaccine was introduced in the US five years ago, but has been delayed in the UK because of concerns over its cost.

The jab costs 34.50 a shot, more than all the other childhood vaccines put together.

Babies currently have six jabs, it is not clear whether this vaccination will simply add to that figure or replace any of them.

Professor Adam Finn, a University of Bristol paediatrician and meningitis expert, said: "It is a really important step forward.

"We have been waiting for a number of years for it to be introduced. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing children sick when it is preventable."

And he said parents had no need to be worried about adding another vaccination to the programme.

"It is an understandable concern, but we see no reason for it to be a problem."

And Linda Glennie, head of research and medical information at the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "If this is true, it is great news.

"Pneumococcal meningitis is extremely nasty. Up to half of people who are infected are left with permanent after effects, including brain damage, paralysis and deafness."

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