Public Health England (PHE) have this week released new figures showing 461 confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) for the last epidemiological year, which runs from the beginning of July 2019 – end of June 2020. This is 12% lower than the 526 cases confirmed in July 2018 – June 2019.
Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) refers to meningitis or septicaemia caused by meningococcal bacteria – the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. Around 1 in 10 of us carry the bacteria in the back of our nose and throats, and it is passed from person to person by close contact.
suggests that the social distancing measures introduced in March 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19 have contributed to this fall in cases of disease. Between April – June 2020, only 29 cases of IMD were confirmed, which is 76% lower than the 121 cases confirmed in the same period during 2019.
Linda Glennie, Director of Research at Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) said: “We are pleased that cases of deadly meningitis have fallen, but people shouldn’t be complacent. We remain concerned that some people may be missing vaccine appointments due to concerns about travelling to a GP during the COVID pandemic. We don’t want to see a dramatic rise in cases once lockdown is lifted, so it’s still vitally important to get routine immunisations.”
It is very important that anyone who is eligible for a meningitis vaccine should continue to receive it, despite lockdown measures. Parents of children who may have missed their scheduled immunisations due to self-isolation, or due to school closures, must ensure that this vaccine appointment is rescheduled as soon as possible.
Commenting on MRF's 2020 #VaccinesAreVital campaign
, Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England, said: “The national immunisation programme remains in place to protect the nation’s health and no one should be in any doubt of the devastating impact of diseases such as measles, meningitis and pneumonia."
The Meningitis Research Foundation Support Service is here for anyone with questions or concerns regarding vaccination.