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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Meningitis cases fall
Meningitis cases falling
Cases of the C strain of the killer brain disease meningitis have fallen by 75% among babies and teenagers following a vaccination campaign.

Ministers said figures released on Tuesday proved the Government's immunisation campaign had been a huge success since it was launched last November.

We are the first country in the world to have this new vaccine and it has already cut the winter cases of meningococcal Group C disease in these immunised groups by around 75%

Yvette Cooper, public health minister
The immunisation campaign in England and Wales has so far been restricted to the highest risk groups - babies under one and youngsters aged 15 to 17.

The Department of Health figures show that from December to March, cases of the bug in 15 to 17-year-olds fell by 77% to a total of just 16 cases.

Cases among children under one from the beginning of January to the middle of March fell by 73% to just ten confirmed sufferers.

Incidences of the disease in groups who have not yet been immunised have continued to rise in the same period.

The figures were released on the day public health experts in Scotland sought to reassure parents that a 14-year-old boy who died four days after being inoculated against the bug could not have died from a medical reaction to the jab.

The Grampian Health Board said the meningitis C vaccine could not cause even a mild case of the condition and that it had an excellent safety record.

Health Minister Yvette Cooper, commenting on the fall in cases in England and Wales, said: "This is welcome news for parents and children.

"We are the first country in the world to have this new vaccine and it has already cut the winter cases of meningococcal Group C disease in these immunised groups by around 75%.

"This new vaccine puts the UK in the forefront of tackling this devastating disease."

Urged parents

She urged parents to ensure their children are vaccinated.

Immunisation has been restricted because of short supplies of the vaccine, manufactured by pharmaceutical company Wyeth.

The campaign is set to be extended to all children under by five by this summer and by the end of the year it is hoped that all 15m of the UK's under 18s will have been offered the vaccine.

Meningitis C accounts for 40% of cases of the disease, with 1,530 cases in 1998, resulting in 150 deaths.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson said: "The health departments have worked closely with manufacturers to ensure that the vaccine was made available as fast as it was produced - ensuring that the programme keeps on course to immunise all under 18s by the end of the year."

Denise Vaughan, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said she was delighted by the fall in cases.

She said: "This new vaccine was produced through the commitment by all concerned to vital scientific research.

"We are delighted at the impact the vaccine has had in the age groups already immunised, but reinforce the importance of continued awareness and further research until vaccines are available to protect against all major forms of meningitis and septicaemia."

There is still no vaccine against the Group B strain of meningitis, the most common form of the disease.

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Scotland
Meningitis plea after boy's death
09 Mar 99 | Medical notes
Preventing meningitis
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