Alert over tainted meningitis vaccine: 60,000-dose recall after tests uncover bug

Alert over tainted meningitis vaccine: 60,000-dose recall after tests uncover bug

Thousands of doses of meningitis C vaccine were recalled last night after a contamination scare.

The alert was sounded after tests found traces of the bug Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause blood poisoning.

About 60,000 doses are being recalled, a third of which had already been delivered to GP surgeries and health clinics in the past month.

It is not yet known how many have been given to babies.

Government health chiefs said the recall was a ‘precautionary measure’ and no adverse reactions have been recorded in children in the UK.

A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the decision to recall the two batches was made just to be on the safe side, even though ‘there is no reason for UK children to be at any risk’.

She added: ‘The batches concerned were tested prior to release and complied with all tests, including the sterility test.

‘The tested samples that failed the sterility test were part of a non-routine study undertaken by the company and were not part of the UK market product. This is an entirely precautionary action.

‘There is no reason to believe the UK batches are at risk of the problems of the material that was tested. These batches have been withdrawn to ensure that there are no grounds for anyone to be concerned.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘If people have had this vaccine recently and are concerned contact your GP or NHS Direct. We know which practices have received this vaccine and they will be contacted directly.’

The vaccine, sold under the trade name Menjugate, was manufactured and packed in Italy by Novartis.

A spokesman for the pharmaceutical company said it was working with the MHRA and Italian ministry of health to recall two batches of Menjugate Kit distributed in the UK.

She said: ‘We are investigating a sterility-testing positive result from samples of one lot of aluminium hydroxide solvent which was used for the packaging of two lots of Menjugate.

‘The solvent lot passed all release specifications; the subject result was identified during a special study. Novartis is committed to being a safe and reliable provider of vaccines.’

Millions of jabs for meningitis C are administered every year in Britain as part of the routine immunisation of babies at two, three and four months.

The safety alert affects doses of the vaccine given as boosters at four months.

Meningitis, in which the protective membranes around the brain become infected and inflamed, kills at least one in ten sufferers.

Some survivors suffer permanent complications such as brain damage, epilepsy and deafness.

A decade ago, Britain became the first country to routinely vaccinate against the meningitis C – a move believed to save 150 lives each winter.

The programme was brought in to prevent two out of five cases of the disease – the rest are caused by the B strain for which there is not yet an effective vaccine.

The group C bacteria was regarded as a special threat at the time because it formed a growing proportion of overall meningitis infections in Britain.


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