The paper also highlighted that while the reported incidence of meningococcal disease is relatively low across the region, this is based on limited information as some countries in the region lack a system for routinely reporting and investigating cases, while in others, widespread use of antibiotics and reliance on traditional culture methods, and lack of awareness amongst health professionals means cases are missed.
Only few countries in the Asia-Pacific region currently have routine meningococcal vaccination programmes. Instead vaccines are only recommended for high risk groups including those who are immunocompromised or those who attend mass gatherings or pilgrimages, such as the Hajj
While the reported vaccine uptake is very high among pilgrims of the Hajj, a number of potential barriers remain, including lack of knowledge about vaccines and availability. The paper also reports evidence of certain Muslim communities refusing vaccination on religious grounds, although the Islamic faith generally recognises vaccination as a means to protect life.
Elsewhere in the region, barriers to vaccine uptake include cost of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy, which is a complex issue but may occasionally stem from misconceptions surrounding vaccination.
Linda Glennie, Director of Research at Meningitis Research Foundation, a GMI Steering Group Member, said: “Advocacy has a critical role to play in addressing genuine barriers to uptake of vaccines, so that vaccines can reach all those who need them. The Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030
is committed to improving access to meningitis prevention, and to treatment and support for people affected by the disease.”