MenACWY vaccine to be introduced for Ireland following increase in cases

01 May 2019
MenACWY vaccine to be introduced for Ireland following increase in cases

Meningitis Research Foundation welcomes the news that the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has approved the introduction of the MenACWY vaccine, following a series of letters from the charity to government and health officials.

A family who were recently affected by a particularly deadly type of meningitis - meningococcal W meningitis and septicaemia (MenW) - contacted the charity and bravely spoke to the Minister in person to demand action. The charity also wrote to the Minister on 18th February 2019 highlighting evidence that MenW was increasing in Ireland.

Since 2014, cases of MenW have more than tripled in Ireland, with 12 cases reported in 2018. With the MenACWY vaccine already implemented in other European countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, Meningitis Research Foundation asked health officials in Ireland to seriously consider implementing MenACWY into the immunisation schedule to protect people against MenW and three other deadly types of meningococcal disease.

The Department of Health is currently liaising with the Health Service Executive, with a view to implementing administration of the new vaccine.

"The introduction of the MenACWY vaccine into the schedule is welcomed because it means that the Irish population will be protected against more types of meningitis and septicaemia.” Diane McConnell, Meningitis Research Foundation

Diane McConnell, Regional Director at Meningitis Research Foundation said, “During the last few weeks of 2018 and first weeks of 2019, there was a higher than normal incidence of meningococcal meningitis reported in Ireland. Therefore, the introduction of the MenACWY vaccine into the schedule is particularly welcomed because it means that the Irish population will be protected against more types of meningitis and septicaemia.”

Rapid diagnosis and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia provide the best chance of survival. However, early symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell, which can be mistaken for something less serious. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion, but these symptoms are less well known.

MenW can be very difficult to recognise because patients can often present with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, without the characteristic signs of meningitis and septicaemia, such as a non-blanching rash. That’s why prevention through vaccination is the best option to tackle this disease.

Meningitis strikes quickly and can kill within 24 hours. About a third of survivors can be left with life-changing after effects, some as serious as brain damage, limb loss, blindness or hearing loss.

MenB, MenC and other types of meningitis continue to be a threat in Ireland. Crucially, however, both MenB and MenC are covered in the current immunisation schedule in Ireland, with MenC being offered since the year 2000, and MenB being offered to babies since December 2016. However, there are not yet vaccines available against all types of meningitis and septicaemia, which is why it’s important for people to remain aware of the symptoms.

With a recent spike in MenW cases, Meningitis Research Foundation particularly welcomes the introduction of the ACWY vaccine.

If anyone has queries or concerns about meningitis and/or septicaemia, you can contact Support and Communications Officer Gerda Berry at Meningitis Research Foundation’s Dublin office on 01 819 6931, email dublin@meningitis.org, or call our helpline on 1800 41 33 44.

About meningitis vaccines
About meningitis vaccines
There are vaccines against some forms of meningitis
Media contact
Sophie Beyer - Media Relations Manager
Tel: 07875 498047
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