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News for week ending 10 May 2002


The search for a strain-specific vaccine for meningococcal disease is on track, according to the Minister of Health, Annette King, with the signing of a second contract with biotechnology company Chiron.

The second contract clears the way for the Ministry of Health and Chiron to implement an action plan, including a series of clinical trials prior to an approved vaccine.

The ministry signed an initial contract with Chiron Corporation last year to begin manufacturing a tailor-made vaccine for New Zealand. Finding a suitable vaccine for the specific strain of Meningococcal B disease is essential, as there is currently no vaccine for the notified infectious disease in this country.

Meningococcal disease B can cause septicemia (known as blood poisoning), meningitis (swelling of the brain), or a combination of both and is usually prevalent during winter and spring.

Planning begins next month for the first stage of clinical trials. It will involve testing a safety-approved vaccine on adult New Zealanders recruited from the health profession.

If Phase 1 is successful, trials will run at the end of the year within the target group - under 20's. The entire process is expected to take at least 18 months.

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