New vaccine is an important step forward

August 19, 2004

The new five-in-one vaccine is an important step forward in the United Kingdom's vaccination programme, say child health experts in this week's BMJ.

Newspaper headlines of chaos and panic are regrettable since the new vaccine offers children protection against the same five diseases but in a more acceptable formulation, write Helen Bedford and David Elliman.

This change is a natural progression in the light of the near elimination of polio worldwide and advances in vaccine technology. Many other European countries, as well as the United States and Canada, have already made the change to inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).

A trial in the United Kingdom, to be published later this year, will show that the new vaccine (Pediacel) produces notably fewer of the common, troublesome but minor side effects such as fever and soreness at the injection site than the current vaccine.

This should prove popular with parents who in one study said that they would prefer a vaccine that causes fewer reactions, say the authors.

Concerns that this vaccine could overload the immune system are misguided as the new vaccine actually contains 3,000 less antigens than the current vaccine, even though it protects against five instead of four diseases.

However, the benefits of the new vaccine do not outweigh the risks of delaying immunisation until its introduction. Parents should therefore be encouraged to have their children immunised according to the current schedule, until the new one is introduced, they conclude.


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