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Wednesday, October 27, 1999 Published at 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK

UK: Scotland

Meningitis jabs for Scots

Older children will be contacted through schools

About one million Scottish babies, children and young adults are set to benefit from a major meningitis vaccination scheme.

Scotland's Health Minister Susan Deacon has pledged that every child in Scotland is to be offered the Meningitis C vaccine over the next 14 months.

Details of the complex and costly immunisation programme were spelled out in the Scottish Parliament debating chamber.

Ms Deacon said the news signalled the beginning of the end of the potentially fatal disease in Scotland.

An initial shortage of the vaccine means high-risk groups like babies and 15 to 17-year-olds will be offered it first.

'Logistical challenge'

Pre-school children will be invited to GPs' surgeries and health centres while parents of older children will be contacted through their schools.

Last year 160 Scots contracted the potentially fatal disease and of that number 10 people died.

Ms Deacon said that although the scheme represented a logistical challenge for health professionals and headteachers, it would be a huge achievement for Scotland, which is one of the first countries to introduce a routine national vaccination programme.

She said: "This is an opportunity which the Scottish Executive was not prepared to ignore. The development of this vaccine is hugely welcome.

"It will mean that Scotland will be one of the first countries in the world to introduce a proper programme of vaccination. As health minister and the mother of a young child I am immensely proud to be able to make this announcement today.

Research group

"In order to immunise one million babies and children it will pose a major logistical problem. But that is a challenge we are determined to meet."

A research group was set up last year to explore ways of introducing a possible Scotland-wide vaccination programme.

It had input from the Scottish Executive, public health groups, GP representatives, the education sector and medical experts.

Ms Deacon said: "I believe they have come up with a plan which puts in place a sound arrangement for Scotland - one which will develop quickly and effectively."

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