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The BBC's Nardip Dhariwal
"Over thirteen million children have been vaccinated against the C strain"
 real 28k

Monday, 12 June, 2000, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Safety fears over meningitis vaccine
Vaccination
Over 13m children have been vaccinated against meningitis C
The Department of Health has refused to carry out a review into the safety of the meningitis C vaccine despite fears it is unsafe.

New figures show that almost 5,000 children have suffered adverse reactions to the vaccine since it was introduced.

The Chiron jab was introduced last autumn, a year ahead of schedule, as a protection against the meningitis C strain.

It has been given to 13m children and university students across the UK.

But according to figures from the Medical Controls Agency there were 4,764 reports of adverse reactions to the vaccine up to the beginning of June.

A further 10,202 suspected reactions have been reported while an investigation has been launched into the deaths of eight children to see if there is a link to the vaccine.

No review But Dr Pat Troop, deputy chief medical officer, said there were no plans to carry out a review into the safety of the vaccine.

"We are monitoring the results of the meningitis vaccination programme, as we would with any other, but are pleased with the initial results from the programme and are not carrying out a review.


David Drew
David Drew MP has called for review of vaccine

"We want to reassure parents that this is a very safe vaccine which has been extensively tested and that the number of reports of reactions to the vaccine is normal for a programme like this," she said.

The reported adverse reactions have included sore throats, sore arms, headaches and fainting.

Dr Troop said the benefits of the vaccination programme far outweighed the disadvantages.

"This programme has cut the number of deaths and cases from meningitis C in those immunised by over 70 per cent.

"In that context, the number of reported reactions is very low and the benefits of being protected from meningitis C are overwhelming."

Fears



I think it is important that we find out all of the facts

David Drew MP

However, Labour MP David Drew said there is a need for a review.

He is expected to table a question in the House of Commons this week asking ministers to examine the safety of the vaccine.

Speaking to BBC Online he said: "I think it is important that we find out all of the facts. We need to be doing something to allay people's fears."

Mr Drew also called on the Department of Health to draw up advice for patients on the vaccine.

"I understand that one of the reasons some people are fainting is because they have not eaten beforehand.

"There should be guidance for patients advising them to eat beforehand.

"They should also be told that like all other vaccines there will be side effects but that it is also very important that they are vaccinated."

Mr Drew is chairman of the Common's meningitis committee and is MP for Stroud, which was the focus of a large cluster of meningitis cases in the 1990s.

A spokeswoman for the Meningitis Research Foundation said it would welcome any study which examined the safety of the vaccine.

But she added: 'In comparison to the 13m children who have received the vaccine, the number of adverse reactions is quite minor."

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28 Mar 00 | Health
Meningitis cases fall
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