Vaccine celebrates 20 years of success
26 June 2012
Today marks the anniversary of the 20th anniversary of a childhood immunisation programme against the Haemophilusinfluenzae type b (Hib) bacteria, which has prevented thousands of infants contacting potentially fatal infectious diseases such as meningitis.
Supported by a high-profile public health campaign, including a hard-hitting advertising campaign launched in 1992, the programme has now virtually eliminated the disease, reducing the rate of infection by 97% and saving the NHS over £2million each year in treatment costs.
The immunisation programme is so successful that many adults are now unaware that Hib can cause fatal diseases such as meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia. New research shows that 62% of adults are unaware that the Hib vaccine is part of the childhood immunisation programme. Half (50%) of people in Great Britain do not know which diseases Hib can cause and only a fifth (17%) are aware that it can lead to meningitis.
Prior to routine immunisation, there were around 900 reported cases of Hib each year in England and Wales, mostly affecting young children. Hib was the most frequent cause of childhood bacterial meningitis, leading to death in around five to ten per cent of cases and serious long-term damage in up to a third of survivors, including deafness, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
Today there are just 30 reported cases of Hib in the UK each year, with just six children under five years affected. There have been no fatalities from Hib since 2007. Routine Hib vaccination has also been associated with a fall in the number of children developing Hib meningitis - in 2008 only 10% of children with invasive Hib infections presented with meningitis, compared to 70% in the pre-vaccine era.
Chris Head, CEO of MRF said: “Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in young children until the Hib vaccine was introduced in 1992, virtually eradicating Hib from the UK and most industrialised countries where the vaccine is used. This has been a tremendous advance for the children who would otherwise have been deafened, brain-damaged or died from Hib meningitis.”
He continued: “We are delighted to see the vaccine now being introduced in the developing world, including many African countries, where Hib infection is even more common and more life-threatening than in the UK. Scientifically, Hib vaccine pioneered the technology upon which all the other successful meningitis vaccines we now use in the UK are based, which has saved countless lives.”