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Spreading out doses of childhood Hib could be an effective alternative to adding an extra booster dose to the UK vaccine schedule.

A study in Finland, where children have been vaccinated against Hib at four, six and 14- 18 months since 1988, found there were only three cases of Hib meningitis between 1991 and 2000.

In the UK, infants receive Hib at two, three and four months ­ but Government advisers are considering a routine booster after launching a catch-up campaign in 2002 in response to a rise in Hib cases.

Professor Heiki Peltola, professor of infectious diseases at University of Helsinki children's hospital, said: 'Excellent protection from Hib meningitis has been maintained. We think our approach ­ keeping at least two months between the first two doses and giving the third as a late booster ­ is a good compromise.'

The research analysed re-cords of Hib meningitis in Finland between 1939 and 2003 and was published online by the BMJ.

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