Babies across the United Kingdom are to be offered the meningitis C vaccine, at the same time as their routine vaccinations. Children due to get their routine vaccinations at around two, three, four and 13 months will be offered the new jab at the same time. Meningitis C kills one in every ten people affected.
When it will be offered
Children aged 15,16 and 17 have already been offered the vaccination and attention is now turning to young babies. The campaign was planned this way to target the age groups most at risk to the disease.
Parents of children at around the ages of two, three and four months will receive routine appointment cards for their children to receive diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib and polio immunisations and, at the same appointment, the meningitis C vaccine should be offered.
The same should apply to children aged between 13 and 15 months when they are called
for their first measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.
Babies aged four months and under will need three doses of the vaccine, between five months and 12 months will need two doses and one year and over will need one dose.
Once as many babies as possible in this age group have been reached, the spotlight will
turn to babies between four months and one year and then to pre-school children. Special
appointments will be issued.
Should your child get the jab
The aim of vaccination is to reach as many people as possible, increasing overall immunity in the community and preventing disease. Although the meningitis C vaccine should offer protection against this strain of the disease, it cannot protect against meningitis B and parents will still have to remain alert.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson said: “This is a tremendous success and it will be of major benefit to the health of our children. The development of a new vaccine against meningococcal group C infection will have a major impact on this disease.”
“Older schoolchildren and babies are most at risk from the disease and we are targeting these vulnerable groups in the first phase of our immunisation programme.”
Dr. Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control for Leicestershire, is urging the parents of his county’s 230,000 children to let them have the jab. He said: “Meningitis is a very serious disease and kills one in ten of those who get it. It is particularly common in under ones in terms of the number of cases, so I feel it is an important message to get your child protected as early as possible.”
Dr. Monk said that early indications show that the side effects of the jab in babies are very similar to those for their routine immunisations, such as a red arm and slightly feverish. As is normal with routine immunisations, children can be given a dose of infant paracetamol if required.
What meningitis charities think
Philip Kirby, Chief Executive, National Meningitis Trust, said: “The National Meningitis Trust is delighted with the progress that has been made on the vaccine. The introduction of the new C vaccine will result in lives being saved.
“It will mean that the most ‘at-risk’ groups will receive long-term and effective protection against this deadly strain of meningitis. However, we need to ensure that everyone is aware that the new vaccine will only protect against the C strain of meningitis. It is not effective against the B strain of the disease which accounts for about 60 per cent of all cases. Everyone still needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.”
Victoria Beckham, patron of the Meningitis Research Foundation, which supports the immunisation programme, said: “As parents of a young baby, David and I know how important it is to give our child as much protection as possible. The new vaccine against Group C meningoccocal disease will be a breakthrough in reducing the number of cases and saving lives.”
How the jab was tested
The vaccine, which is very similar to the Hib vaccine already offered, has been tested in around 4500 children and young adults in the UK and more than 21,000 children and adults outside the UK.