There have been recent news reports that a 10 month old girl, Kia Gott from West Yorkshire, has been very severely affected by septicaemia caused by meningococcal C (MenC) infection. The thoughts of everyone at Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) are with Kia and her family at this difficult time.
Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia are deadly diseases that can strike without warning. The MenC vaccine was introduced in 1999 and has successfully reduced cases from thousands to around 30-40 each year in the UK.
Until July 2016, the MenC vaccine had been given to babies at 12 weeks of age. Due to the success of the vaccine, cases of MenC in babies became very uncommon and the infant vaccine was removed from the NHS routine immunisation schedule, following advice to government from experts at the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation.
Immunisation of teenagers against MenC since 2013 was forecast to maintain protection by dramatically reducing the amount of MenC bacteria in circulation. Teenagers are more likely to ‘carry’ the meningococcal bacteria in the back of their nose and throat than any other age group and they can spread it to other people. Vaccinating teenagers against MenC prevents them carrying and spreading the bacteria so other age groups are less likely to get the disease – offering the best chance of protecting the whole population.
The first dose of MenC vaccine is now routinely offered for children after their first birthday, followed by a booster dose for teenagers as part of the MenACWY vaccine.
Changes to the meningococcal C (MenC) meningitis and septicaemia vaccination programme in the UK
MRF campaigns to ensure that any NHS meningitis vaccine programme offers the maximum protection against meningitis for everyone. Vaccination is the only way to prevent the disease and MRF wants to see protection against MenC maintained across the population.
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive at MRF said, “It is extremely distressing to hear of Kia’s terrible illness and we are here for the family if they need our support at this difficult time. We are very concerned to hear of infants contracting MenC, a strain of the disease that vaccination can prevent. We would like to reassure parents that the number of MenC cases in infants remains very low. However, we are in touch with public health officials who are monitoring the situation very closely as it is important to constantly consider the effectiveness of immunisation programmes.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent meningitis and septicaemia, but there are not yet vaccines available to prevent all types, so knowing the symptoms is also really important.”
Details of the routine immunisation programme for babies is available here.
Symptoms information can be found here
MRF has a free helpline and support service for anyone affected or with questions about meningitis or septicaemia, 080 8800 3344 (UK) or 1800 41 33 44 (Ireland) or firstname.lastname@example.org.