One dose of the pneumococcal vaccine is due to be removed from the UK’s routine childhood immunisation schedule within the next year, following recommendations from the government’s vaccine advisors - the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) has been reassured that protection against pneumococcal meningitis will be maintained with the new schedule and that public health experts will be continuing to monitor the number of cases closely.
MRF would like to see confirmation that mechanisms are in place to quickly respond to any resurgence in disease following the change to the schedule.
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria - a leading cause of bacterial meningitis.
UK babies are currently given three separate doses of pneumococcal vaccine, two in infancy at two and four months of age with a booster dose at one year of age (known as a 2 + 1 schedule). The schedule will be amended to one dose in infancy at three months of age with a booster at one year (known as a 1 + 1 schedule).
The JCVI base their recommendations on the latest evidence and research. A recent study found that, for 9 of the 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria that the vaccine prevents, infants receiving two doses get an ‘equivalent or superior’ protective response compared to infants who received all three doses.
The JCVI report that the pneumococcal vaccine has not only successfully reduced cases of disease due to the 13 strains covered by the vaccine, but that it has also dramatically reduced the circulation of these bacteria amongst the wider population. They believe this means the risk of exposure to the 13 strains of disease has reduced so much that removing one vaccine dose in infancy would not result in a significant increase in cases.