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CDC panel OKs Glaxo meningitis vaccine for infants at risk

By Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters

CHICAGO - Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted on Wednesday to recommend the use of GlaxoSmithKline's newly approved vaccine for bacterial meningitis in babies at increased risk of the infection.

The vote is not related to the ongoing outbreak of fungal meningitis that has been linked to tainted steroid injections and has so far killed 24 people.

Children at increased risk include those with sickle cell disease and an immune system disorder known as complement component deficiency.

The CDC panel said the vaccine could also be used in babies 2 months through 18 months who live in communities battling an outbreak of meningococcal disease caused by serogroup C and Y.

The vaccine, known as MenHibrix, targets two common causes of bacterial meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can cause severe brain damage, and it is fatal in 50 percent of cases if untreated.

The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC, voted 13 to 1, with 1 abstention, to recommend the vaccine for use in infants at greater risk for meningococcal disease, with 4 doses starting at 2, 4, 6 months and 12 through 15 months.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in June.

The vaccine is intended to prevent disease caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis serogroups C and Y, two of the three most common causes of meningococcal disease in the United States.

It also protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b or Hib bacteria. Hib was the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children under the age of 5 before vaccines for the strain became common.

About 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis occurred in the United States each year from 2003 to 2007, the most recent data available, and 500 people died from the disease, according to the CDC. Infants are at highest risk.