20/02/2003

Booster dose of Hib vaccine to be offered to NI children

The DHSSPS is to offer all children aged between six months and four years an extra dose of Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib) vaccine during 2003.

This follows a recent small rise in cases of Hib disease throughout the UK. Hib causes a number of serious illnesses in young children including meningitis and pneumonia.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reviewed the increase in cases in November 2002 and subsequently advised the Department to offer an extra dose of Hib vaccine to those children aged between six months and four years.

The Hib vaccine was introduced into the childhood immunisation programme in 1992 and is now routinely given to all children at two, three and four months. Hib immunisation has had an enormous impact on the levels of Hib disease – prior to its introduction there were almost 30 cases a year here – Hib immunisation resulted in a dramatic (98%) fall in cases. However provisional data for 2002 show that there were 18 cases of Hib last year, mostly in children under four years of age.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Henrietta Campbell, has written to all GPs and other health professionals informing them of the plans to offer this extra dose of vaccine. It is hoped the campaign will begin during April or May this year.

Dr Campbell said: “The Hib immunisation programme in Northern Ireland has been very successful in reducing the levels of Hib disease. However we now have evidence of a small increase in Hib cases, in particular in those aged less than four years of age.

“We must ensure these children are adequately protected against Hib disease and therefore we plan to offer them an extra dose of Hib vaccine this year.”

It estimated that over the last ten years, Hib vaccination has prevented about 7,300 cases of Hib disease and approximately 270 deaths in children aged under four in England and Wales. It has also prevented an estimated further 400 cases and 11 deaths in all people aged over four years. Prior to the introduction of Hib vaccine in Northern Ireland there were up to 30 cases of Hib a year.

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A campaign has been launched in Northern Ireland today aimed at giving all children aged between 6 months and 4 years an extra dose of Haemophilus influenzae b (Hib) vaccine during 2003. The decision follows a recent small rise in cases of Hib disease throughout the UK.