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Meningitis outbreak linked to mass vaccination

SALVADOR, BRAZIL. Aseptic (acute viral) meningitis is a known adverse effect of vaccination with the combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. It is estimated that one out of every 10,000 children given the vaccine develops aseptic meningitis. Public health authorities in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, now confirms this connection. In August 1997 about 450,000 children between the ages of one and eleven years of age were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella using Pluserix vaccine (Smith-Kline Beecham Pharmaceuticals). Approximately three weeks after the vaccination 50 of the vaccinated children were diagnosed with aseptic meningitis and admitted to hospital. The health officials estimate that the rate of hospital admission for meningitis was 13.4 times higher three weeks after the vaccination than before the campaign started. The vast majority of cases involved children between the ages of one and eight years with children aged four to eight years being almost five times more likely to develop meningitis than children aged nine to eleven years. The officials conclude that the vaccination caused the outbreak of meningitis, but oddly enough their main concern is not this serious adverse effect, but rather how the public is going to perceive vaccination campaigns in the future. They note "The average citizen has started to behave as a health-care consumer, discussing official health policies, requesting more information, and questioning and even refusing governmental health measures."
Dourado, Ines, et al. Outbreak of aseptic meningitis associated with mass vaccination with a urabe-containing measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 151, March 1, 2000, pp. 524-30

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