British babies to get vaccine against meningitis

Babies in the UK will soon be given a vaccination against the pneumococcal disease meningitis as part and parcel of the standard infant immunisation package.

The vaccine Prevnar will be available as early as next week and will be routinely given to babies when they are 2 months, 4 months and 13 months old.

Children under 2 who have already started their vaccinations will also be offered the jab as part of a 'catch-up' programme.

Experts believe the vaccination against pneumococcal or bacterial meningitis will save at least 50 lives a year and Health minister Caroline Flint says it will prevent hundreds of cases of such serious illnesses.

The pneumococcal bug can cause meningitis, pneumonia and blood poisoning.

Survivors are often left with permanent disabilities including brain damage, deafness and cerebral palsy, but some parents are concerned that infant immune systems will be over loaded and unable to cope with the number of vaccines now recommended.

The addition of the trio of pneumococcal jabs means children will now receive 25 vaccinations, in 10 injections, against 10 different diseases before the age of 2.

However experts say that vaccination is the only way to prevent meningitis and they welcome the move.

Prevnar is produced by the drug company Wyeth.

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