Health written question – answered on 6th November 2001.

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Photo of Sandra Gidley Sandra Gidley Liberal Democrat, Romsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent steps he has taken to reduce the incidence of meningitis B; and what further steps he plans to take in the next 12 months.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

As the recent success with meningitis C vaccine has demonstrated, the best way to reduce the incidence of meningococcal Group B disease is through an effective meningitis B vaccine. Unfortunately, we are some years away from having such a vaccine. Work to find a vaccine against Group B is much more difficult than for Group C, although early indicators for a Group B vaccine are encouraging. The Department is investigating Group B vaccines in collaboration with RIVM, the Dutch national vaccine manufacturer, and funds Group B vaccine dedicated work at the Centre for Applied Microbiology Research.

In the meantime, it remains essential for parents and health professionals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and alert to act quickly should they recognise any of these symptoms. Information on recognising meningococcal disease is included in all the childhood immunisation materials produced by Health Promotion England which are given to parents. Health professionals have been reminded to be alert to the expected winter rise in meningococcal cases in a letter from the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Pharmacist issued on 15 October.

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