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Child Hib vaccine go-ahead

The Department of Health has confirmed plans for an urgent Hib vaccine catch-up programme in young children, as reported exclusively in the last issue of Pulse.

The programme ­ to cost £800,000 and be delivered by GPs via a locally enhanced service ­ follows a warning from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that a cohort of children susceptible to Hib infection has been left unprotected.

In a letter from the chief medical officer this week, the department announced the catch-up programme will start on 10 September this year and last until 3 March 2009.

Eligible children, aged between two years and four years and five months at the start of the campaign, will be offered a booster vaccine that contains an additional Hib component when they attend for routine pre-school immunisation.

Because no more injections will be needed, the department hopes GPs will have little extra work to do, although the letter says that 'a number of older children should be sent an additional appointment so that they can be offered a Hib-containing vaccine'.

The CMO's letter also details extra funding and service arrangements for the catch-up campaign, and says: 'PCTs will not be expected to meet the costs of arranging a Hib booster dose from their existing budget. Prior to the start date of the programme, £800,000 will be distributed nationally on a pro-rata basis to cover these groups.' It adds: 'PCTs should enter into local arrangements with providers using a separate local enhanced service where the delivery of the booster dose results in children being recalled for an additional immunisation visit.'

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