MRF calling for a clear plan for MenC

02 Nov 2018
MRF calling for a clear plan for MenC

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is concerned that the latest data from Public Health England shows that the number of cases of MenC (meningococcal group C meningitis or septicaemia) has slightly increased since a dose of the MenC vaccine was removed from the infant immunisation schedule.

The number of people affected remained low but increased from 37 cases in 2016/2017 to 64 in 2017/2018.

The MenC vaccine was introduced in 1999 and successfully reduced cases from thousands to around 30-40 each year in the UK.

Until July 2016, the first dose of the MenC vaccine for babies was offered at 12 weeks of age. Due to the success of the vaccine, cases of MenC in babies became very uncommon and this dose of the vaccine was removed from the NHS routine immunisation schedule, following advice to government from experts at the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

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.

Immunisation of teenagers against MenC since 2013 was forecast to maintain protection for all age groups 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 – an effect known as herd protection.

Additionally a MenB vaccine was introduced for babies in September 2015, with a first dose offered for babies at two months of age. Research shows the MenB vaccine should provide protection against some types of MenC disease too.

"We have raised this with public health bodies on behalf of patients and families who have rightly expressed their worries too." Vinny Smith, MRF

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive at MRF said, “We are obviously very concerned about the reported rise in MenC cases. This has coincided with the period since the withdrawal of the dose for infants at three months old and we have raised this with public health bodies on behalf of patients and families who have rightly expressed their worries too.

“Public health experts have told us they are monitoring the situation closely. Experts have explained that the increase in MenC cases is likely to be an extremely unusual event, and unlikely to represent a national trend. However, we would like to see a clear plan to show what measures are in place to ensure that protection against this dreadful disease is sustained.

“MRF campaigns to ensure that any NHS meningitis vaccine programme offers the best protection against meningitis for everyone. We have called for greater transparency from government bodies so it is clear how and why vaccine decisions are made.

“We are also calling on all eligible young people to get their free MenACWY vaccine to protect themselves, and others against four types of meningitis, Men A, C, W and Y. Most young adults aged between 14 and 22 are eligible to get the vaccine but uptake has not been very high in the upper end of this age group. It’s easy for anyone to check their eligibility for this free vaccine at:”

The JCVI said in a statement that it believes that optimum control of MenC disease can only be achieved if vaccine coverage in older adolescents and young adults is improved.

JCVI therefore believes that GPs should be strongly encouraged and supported to improve coverage in those aged 18 to less than 25 years who are eligible for vaccination.

MRF is encouraged to hear that in response to this, the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England, supported by the Chief Medical Officer, will work to improve MenACWY vaccine coverage in this age group.

MRF has written to the public health officials to ask how this will be taken forward.

About meningitis vaccines
About meningitis vaccines
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