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New childhood immunisation

Charities give their backing to the revamped childhood vaccination programme for pneumococcal disease

The Meningitis Research Foundation and the Meningitis Trust has come out in support of a pneumococcal vaccine being offered to children, as part of a new routine immunisation programme.

The programme, which began in September, is being supported by a new multi-media campaign urging parents to have their children immunised against pneumococcal disease, which can lead to serious illnesses, such as meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia, if it enters the bloodstream. The immunisation will be given at two, three, four and 13 months.

As part of the programme, there will be a catch-up campaign for children up to two years old who have already started their immunisations. They will be contacted by their GP over the coming months to be vaccinated.

Children under two years old are at the greatest risk of pneumococcal disease. Out of 530 cases a year, 50 children die in England and Wales.

Denise Vaughan, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said that as a direct result of the immunisation programme many youngsters and their families would be spared the devastating effects of pneumococcal meningitis.

However, she sounded a note of caution, saying that it is not possible to vaccinate against all strains of meningitis and emphasising that the public still need to be aware of the symptoms of the illness.

Philip Kirby, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust said: ìVaccination is the only way to prevent meningitis and we welcome these changes as it will help save lives and significantly reduce the burden of the disease.î

As part of the campaign, two other changes have been made to the immunisation programme to include greater protection against Meningitis C and Hib disease.

The previous three doses of MenC vaccine will be re-spaced at three and four months of age, with a booster at 12 months, as recent research shows that the protection offered by the vaccine reduces one year after vaccination.

The new routine vaccination schedule includes:

  • Two months DTaP/IPV/Hib + pneumococcal vaccine

  • Three months DTaP/IPV/Hib + MenC vaccine

  • Four months DTaP/IPV/Hib + MenC vaccine + pneumococcal vaccine

  • 12 months Hib/MenC

  • 13 months MMR + pneumococcal vaccine

DTaP/IPV/Hib is a single injection protecting against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Hib.

The programme is also being supported by a website, www.immunisation.nhs.uk, where both parents and healthcare professionals can find out more about the initiative.

2nd September 2008

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