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New meningitis C teenage booster jab
10th May 2013 -- The vaccination programme for protecting people against meningitis C (MenC) is to be updated. A new teenage booster jab is to be given to 12 to 13 year olds and will replace the booster that is currently given at four months old.
The decision to update the current meningitis C (MenC) vaccination programme was made after independent vaccine experts studied all the available evidence and advised that the second MenC dose at four months old (16 weeks) is no longer required.
New vaccination plans
The teenage booster jab will be offered through schools in the 2013 to 2014 academic year. This is likely to take place in the 2014 spring term. 14 year olds will be offered the vaccination first in year 10, changing to 13-14 year olds in year nine in later years.
Because meningitis C can spread rapidly in halls of residence, from mid-August 2014, there will be a special catch-up programme for students under 25 starting university who won’t have had the new teenage booster.
Meningitis is an infection of the meninges (protective membranes) that surround the brain and spinal cord. The infection causes the meninges to become inflamed ( swollen), which in some cases can damage the nerves and brain.
The meningitis C vaccine protects against infection by meningococcal group C bacteria, which can cause two very serious illnesses; meningitis and septicaemia.
The meningitis C vaccine does not protect against meningitis caused by other bacteria or by viruses.
The best way to prevent meningitis is by ensuring vaccinations are up-to-date.
Teenagers and meningitis C
The Meningitis Research Foundation has welcomed the change to the meningitis C vaccination schedule. It says since its introduction in the UK in 1999 the MenC vaccine has prevented over 13,000 cases of the illness and saved over 1,300 lives. Nowadays there are just a handful of cases of each year.
However, research now shows that the direct protection the vaccine provides against meningitis C declines by the teenage years. This means that babies who were vaccinated in 1999/2000 will now be teenagers who will be less protected from the disease. As teenagers are the second most at-risk age group for meningitis C and are more likely to carry the infection than younger children or older adults a booster dose in early adolescence will extend protection later into life.
Chris Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation says in a news release: "MenC vaccination has been hugely successful and saved many lives. We are proud to have played our part by promoting the vaccine and funding research to understand immunity to MenC. The Government is responding to important research evidence by adjusting the immunisation schedule, which will extend protection against MenC so that more lives will be saved. The recent measles outbreak shows how important vaccine protection is, so we urge every parent to make sure they understand the changes and ensure their children are up to date with their immunisations."
Babies and meningitis C
Since 1999 meningitis C has been part of the routine immunisations for babies.
Currently children get three doses of MenC vaccine at three months, four months and 12-13 months of age but from 1 June 2013, they will have two doses at three and 12-13 months.
Research has shown that one dose of MenC vaccine in the first year of life provides the same protection as two doses.