US regulators have given the thumbs-up to GlaxoSmithKline’s Kinrix, a vaccine that protects children against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.

The US Food and Drug Administration is backing the jab which GSK says is the first vaccine to offer protection against the four diseases in one shot. The firm noted that clinical studies of Kinrix have demonstrated that it offers similar protection to the separately administered diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis (DTaP) and inactivated poliovirus (IPV) vaccines, with a comparable safety profile.

GSK added that these results were confirmed in the pivotal Phase III trial in which 3,156 children aged 4 to 6 were vaccinated with Kinrix, the same DTaP and IPV components used in the firm’s Infanrix and Pediarix. All children studied had previously received four doses of DTaP and three doses of IPV, plus a second dose of the US-licensed measles, mumps and rubella vaccine M-M-RII at the same time.

Young children can receive five or more vaccinations in a single visit, “which can be stressful for parents and vaccinators," said William Hitchcock, assistant clinical professor of paediatrics at the San Diego School of Medicine. "By reducing the number of shots given in one visit, combination vaccines like Kinrix may make it easier for kids to meet school vaccination requirements”, he added.

The FDA’s decision comes just days after the agency gave marketing approval to Sanofi Pasteur’s five-in-one paediatric jab Pentacel. It prevents diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenza type B.

More UK job losses
Meantime, it has been reported that GSK is planning to cut 287 out of 480 jobs over the next two years at its facility in Maidenhead, Berkshire. BBC News says that staff were told of the plan, which will see production moved to eastern Europe, earlier this week.

The BBC also claims that employees at GSK's plant in Montrose, Scotland have been warned to expect redundancies. There are currently about 450 permanent and temporary staff working there.

The company has limited itself to reiterating that job losses are inevitable as part of a restructuring programme which is designed to bring in annual savings of up to £700 million by 2010. GSK also notes that it will do all it can to support the affected employees.