New meningitis C vaccine has reduced cases by 85 per cent

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The new vaccine against meningitis C has reduced cases by 85 per cent in those immunised, according to a government report published yesterday.

The new vaccine against meningitis C has reduced cases by 85 per cent in those immunised, according to a government report published yesterday.

Figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service show that among people aged between 15 and 17, only six cases have been reported in the past 12 weeks, compared with 26 in the same period last year.

In children under a year old, there was only one case reported in this period, compared with 19 last year. The number of cases has continued to rise among those who have not been vaccinated.

More than 15 million doses of the meningitis C vaccine have been given to children and teenagers in the past 10 months. The vaccine covers the meningococcal group C infection, responsible for four out of 10 cases of meningococcal meningitis and most likely to affect teenagers. It is currently being offered to all those under 18 across the country. It does not protect against the meningitis B infection.

The figures have been released against a background of controversy as the Department of Health confirmed at the weekend that three of the medical experts advising the Government on whether the new meningitis C vaccine is safe had received support for their research from one or more of the drug companies that produce it.

The department confirmed that Professor Janet Darbyshire, a member of the Government's Committee on Safety of Medicines, had received support for academic research from the American firms Wyeth and Chiron, which produce the two main meningitis products being used on children in Britain, Meningitec and Meninjugate.

Professor Darbyshire is professor of epidemiology at London University and director of the Medical Research Council.

Dr David Goldblatt of the Institute of Child Health has served on an expert advisory panel for Wyeth and received research grants from Wyeth and North American Vaccines, which produces a third meningitis C drug to be introduced this year. Professor Keith Cartwright of the University of Bristol received research funding from the drug industry to evaluate meningococcal vaccines.

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