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Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia. A vaccine to prevent meningococcal group C disease (Men C) has been part of the childhood immunisation schedule for the past 13 years. In this time as many as 13,000 cases have been prevented and 1,300 lives saved.
From June 2013, improvements to the UK immunisation schedule will include a booster dose of the Men C vaccine being offered in adolescence, so that protection against this devastating disease will be maintained.
Recent research has shown that the protection the vaccine provides starts to decline in teenage years.
Teenagers and young people are a high risk group for meningitis and are also more likely to carry meningitis causing bacteria in the back of their throats. The introduction of a Men C booster at 12 – 13 years will improve protection for this high risk age group and also help stop the bacteria spreading to the wider population.
Babies and children under 5 are the most at risk from Men C disease. Men C vaccine is currently given to babies at 3, 4 and 12 – 13 months of age. Evidence has shown that the dose at 4 months is no longer needed to provide protection in these early years.
The dose at 4 months of age will no longer be given to babies from 1 June 2013. The booster dose to 12- 13 year olds will be offered in the 2013 to 2014 academic year.
Effective vaccines are available to prevent some types of meningitis, but not all, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia so that you can take action.
Many other bacteria, viruses and fungi also cause meningitis which at present can’t be prevented by vaccination. It is essential that everyone knows the signs and symptoms to look for, and how to get urgent medical help.
Vaccines are given to help the body’s immune system fight infection. They contain antigens which are usually harmless, purified components of a germ that can cause disease.
When a vaccine is injected into the body, the immune system is stimulated to produce antibodies in response to these antigens. After vaccination, if someone comes into contact with the germ itself, the body recognise it and be able to fight it.
A different vaccine is needed to give protection against each different germ, and some vaccines need to be given more than once to build up enough protection.
Vaccines have been very successful in reducing the cases of meningitis, with thousands of lives being saved as a result.
In the UK, many diseases are no longer a threat and this is because of the high immunisation rates. Vaccines do not just offer protection to the person receiving them, but also help protect others in the community, particularly children, who for medical reasons cannot be immunised.
Common symptoms that can occur following vaccination include redness and swelling around the injection site and fever. They are natural reactions of the body’s immune system. These symptoms will usually subside in a very short period of time, and are a good indicator of a successful vaccination.
Yes. Before a vaccine can be licensed for use in the UK, it is thoroughly tested for its safety and effectiveness.
A travel vaccine is available to prevent some groups of meningococcal disease. Group A causes epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa and results in thousands of deaths each year. In recent years, group W135 has caused outbreaks in pilgrims travelling to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, and it is now a legal requirement that these visitors are vaccinated against W135. The vaccine protects against groups A, C, W135 and Y, and is available for travellers to ‘at risk’ areas of the world. Always check with your GP or travel clinic for the most up-to-date vaccine information.
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