Good news in the fight against meningitis

August 26, 2015

Meningitis is a potentially life threatening bacterial infection causing inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – the meninges. The disease is particularly prevalent in children under five years old and can have a very rapid onset; therefore, prevention is the key to saving lives.

Recent developments concerning two new meningitis vaccination programmes, both due to commence this Autumn, mean that important steps are being taken to reduce the number of children and young people contracting the disease in the UK.

  • Meningitis B vaccine added to NHS immunisation programme for babies

The government has announced that from 1st September 2015, all newborn babies in England and Scotland are to be offered a meningitis B vaccine, with Wales and Northern Ireland expected to follow soon after.

The Men B vaccine will become part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme and will be given to babies at two months, four months and 12 months. Following the injection, giving paracetamol has been recommended to reduce the risk of developing a fever.

The Men B vaccine scheme makes the UK the first country in the world to offer a publicly-funded national programme against meningitis B.

The vaccine is also available to older children and adults in the UK and Ireland with medical conditions that increase their risk of contracting meningococcal disease. For more information about these conditions and the Men B vaccination, follow this link to the Meningitis Research Foundation website

  • Multi-strain meningitis vaccine offered to UK teenagers and students

Another high-risk group for meningitis, young people aged 14 to 18 and students under the age of 25, are now eligible for a comprehensive meningitis vaccine. The ‘Men ACWY’ vaccine offers a significant step in prevention as it protects against four different causes of meningitis – meningococcal A, C, W and Y diseases.

Men ACWY replaces the routinely given Men C vaccine, which only protects against type C meningococcal disease. The multi-strain vaccine is particularly important as it also provides protection from meningococcal W, the most aggressive strain of the disease which has been on the rise in the UK since 2009 (Source: Public Health England).

For more information about the Men ACWY vaccine program please follow the link to the NHS website