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Meningitis vaccine may have link to neurological disorder

Oct 10, 2005 | Dallas Morning News

Public health officials are investigating whether a new vaccine designed to help prevent meningitis, particularly among college students in dorms, could be linked to a rare neurological condition.

The vaccine, called Menactra, helps protect against certain strains of meningococcal bacteria. Produced by Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine was approved for use in January. While another vaccine was already on the market, doctors had hoped that the new formulation might offer longer immunity.

Since Oct. 4, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have received reports that five teenagers, all ages 17 and 18, developed symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting the new vaccine. About 2.5 million doses of the vaccine have been sold.

GBS is a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

While the number of cases is not apparently abnormal, officials are concerned because they occurred so quickly after the teens got the shots, Dr. Nancy Rosenstein of the CDC told experts gathered Friday in San Francisco for the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The CDC issued an alert Thursday night in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that physicians should be acutely aware of any symptoms of GBS in patients newly vaccinated with Menactra. Because no link between the two has been established, officials are recommending continued use of the vaccine.

A similar vaccine has been used in Britain, where 30 million doses have been administered with only five cases of GBS reported.

In a statement, Sinofi Pasteur said, "No causal relationship has been established between Menactra vaccination and GBS, and there remain several possible explanations for the reported cases of GBS."

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