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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 12:33 GMT
Children to be given new vaccine
The new vaccine is being introduced from April
A vaccine which protects against a disease that causes blood poisoning, meningitis and pneumonia is being added to the UK child immunisation programme.

Up to 50 children under two are thought to die in England and Wales a year from serious pneumococcal infections.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said the new vaccine would save lives and prevent hundreds of serious illnesses in the young and old.

The three-dose jab will be introduced in 2006/2007, it has been confirmed.

The changes set out today will further improve the programme and benefit children
Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief medical officer

He said: "We have already seen the immense impact this programme has had in the US.

"Since its introduction, cases in young children caused by the strains in the vaccine have fallen by 94%, and cases in the over 65s have dropped by two thirds.

"Immunisation is the best way to protect children from serious disease and the routine childhood programme has been extremely effective in achieving this.

"The changes set out today will further improve the programme and benefit children."

The pneumococcal disease vaccine will be given in two-dose jab in a baby's first year. This will then be followed up with a third jab at 13 months.

Children under-two who missed out on the vaccine because of the timing of its introduction will be targeted in a catch-up campaign.

'Don't worry'

Doctors and campaigners have welcomed the plan to bring in the vaccine.

Professor Adam Finn, a University of Bristol paediatrician and meningitis expert, said the vaccine was a really important step.

"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.

"This vaccine has been through extensive safety tests and has been used without any problems for 5 years in US.

"This vaccine will also protect against pneumonia and ear infections, that while less serious, are much more common in young children."


Denise Vaughan, Meningitis Research Foundation's chief executive, said: "We are delighted with the news that the government is introducing these vaccines into the childhood immunisation schedule.

"We know it will save many young lives and we also hope to see benefits in the wider population.

"However, not all forms of meningitis and septicaemia are vaccine preventable, so the public still need to be aware of their symptoms."

Philip Kirby, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust welcomed the move saying vaccination was the only way to prevent meningitis.

He added that a fifth of those who get the illness die, while a quarter suffer the after-effects.


The CMO also announced changes to the child vaccination programme to maximise protection against meningitis C and a bacterial disease known as Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B) which causes meningitis, pneumonia and swelling of the windpipe.

The current three doses of the Men C vaccine will be re-spaced at three and four months of age with a booster at 12 months.

Men C vaccine is currently given to children at two, three and four months of age.

However, the latest evidence shows that the protection offered by this vaccine wanes one year after vaccination.

To maximise the protection in the first two years of life when the risk of infection is high, the NHS will offer doses at three and four months of age and a booster dose at 12 months.

The Hib vaccine was introduced in 1992 and is currently given to children at two, three and four months of age.

But as there is evidence the protection offered by the vaccine wanes over time, so a booster will be offered at 12 months, the Department of Health said.

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