Research from Public Health England published in 2019 studied the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines on pneumococcal meningitis in England and Wales. The research found that the childhood pneumococcal vaccination programme has led to a significant reduction in the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease including meningitis across all age groups. The researchers estimated that more than 700 cases of pneumococcal meningitis have been prevented during the first decade. However, cases of pneumococcal meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia due to pneumococcal strains not covered by the vaccine have been rising and are now responsible for far more cases in the UK than strains covered by PCV13.
Now that the majority of invasive pneumococcal disease is not currently vaccine preventable, MRF considers that alongside maintaining this reduction in cases, wider coverage should be a key aim for the future to reduce cases of this deadly disease still further. Research to develop improved pneumococcal vaccines is vital.
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said, “We have been reassured that protection will be maintained under these changes, but if we do see more children contracting pneumococcal meningitis due to vaccine preventable strains after the vaccine schedule changes, this would be unacceptable.
“We are pleased that the number of cases are to be kept under regular review, but we would like clarity on when and how the dose of vaccine would be re-introduced if cases of this deadly disease increased.
“A reduced schedule will make it more important than ever that people take up vaccines available to them. It is vital that children are immunised with the booster dose at one year of age to stop wider transmission of the disease causing bacteria.”
MRF has also urged for the changes to be communicated widely to parents so they know doses have been reduced.
The government has now published the following information: