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Experts call for routine Hib booster

Vaccine experts are calling on the Government to add a

routine preschool Hib booster to the childhood immunisation schedule after a study showed the recent Hib catch-up campaign was successful.

Government advisers said they would review the study findings at the next meeting of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and make a quick decision if the findings proved definitive.

The RCGP said it was 'important' to introduce a routine dose provided the funding and supply were guaranteed.

The study showed the Hib booster campaign, which ran from May to September last year, produced a 'significant' protective antibody response in children regardless of previous vaccination.

Study leader Dr Nik Johnson, research fellow at St George's Hospital Medical School, measured the antibody response to the booster in 176 children aged between two and four.

Following the booster, antibody levels increased from 0.36µg/ml to 17.3µg/ml, according to results presented at the spring meeting of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in York earlier this month.

Dr Johnson warned Hib was still circulating in the UK and stressed the importance of introducing a routine booster. He said: 'Our work shows the Hib booster was very effective and an extra dose would improve levels of protection. We should really be thinking about making it routine.'

Dr Mary Ramsay, consultant in epidemiology at the Health Protection Agency's immunisation division, said several changes to the vaccine schedule were under consideration, including a switch to acellular pertussis and the addition of a conjugate pneumococcal vaccine. Officials were keen to avoid too many changes in a short period.

Dr Ramsay added: 'The booster campaign was a short-term solution and has bought us three to four years. This is more data to support the

effectiveness of a booster but there's a lot of factors to

consider.'

RCGP immunisation spok-esman Dr George Kassianos said it was important to introduce the extra dose because of the significant decline in protection in the two years post-vaccination.

Dr Kassianos, a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, said: 'GPs could easily absorb a Hib booster in their immunisation clinics provided it is fully

funded and vaccine supply is guaranteed.

'The best time to give the fourth dose is at the time of the MMR vaccine.'

By Emma Wilkinson

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