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Independent Experts Endorse Immunisation Programme

Media Release
15 October 2004

Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme

Independent experts have endorsed the safety of the vaccine used in the Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme.

The Independent Safety Monitoring Board (ISMB), established by the Health Research Council, met last week to consider safety data for the first two months of the immunisation programme.

This first monitoring period was from 19 July to 19 September 2004 during which more than 140,000 doses of the MeNZB vaccine were administered.

The ISMB advises that it has no particular issues for concern in relation to vaccine safety.

Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy director Dr Jane O'Hallahan said the advice is an excellent outcome and provides further confirmation that the programme is the best way to help protect against meningococcal B disease.

"This programme is constantly and intensively monitored and the monitoring is showing that the vaccine is safe," Dr O'Hallahan said.

"The monitoring includes reviewing, each day, emergency department consultations and admissions at Middlemore Hospital and admissions at Auckland City Hospital for everyone aged from four weeks to 20 years, not just those who have been vaccinated.

"A team of seven nurses supported by three doctors conduct the reviews. The reviews detect whether anyone has had one of the rare side effects reported with other vaccines and checked for in this monitoring. If the condition is detected then checks are made to establish whether or not that person has received the MeNZB vaccine.

"We monitor everyone irrespective of whether they have had the vaccine or not. In the first monitoring period, approximately 7200 emergency department consultations and admissions were reviewed to check if any of these people had been vaccinated.

"The monitoring found there were no cases of serious events related to the MeNZB vaccine," Dr O'Hallahan said.

"As well as the hospital-based monitoring, the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) has asked health professionals to report suspected adverse events following vaccination with MeNZB .

"As of 24 September 2004, CARM had received 88 reports following vaccination with MeNZB .

"No life threatening or unexpected events were reported to CARM.

"CARM notes that the number of reports suggests that the rate of vaccine events following MeNZB vaccination, resulting in health professional concern enough to generate a report, is low," Dr O'Hallahan said.

"During the same monitoring period there were two deaths in people who had co-incidentally been vaccinated. One programme participant died in an accident and the other died of an illness unrelated to the vaccine. Both cases have been reviewed by the ISMB.

"Any death is tragic for the families involved but it is important to note that neither of these deaths are related to the immunisation programme.

"The next phase of the programme is for the immunisation programme to begin in primary care in the Auckland, Waitemata and Northland district health boards from this November," Dr O'Hallahan said.


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