New meningitis vaccine programmes
22nd June 2015 - Two new vaccination programmes to protect children and teenagers from meningitis are to be introduced in England and Scotland.
From September 2015, babies aged 2 months will be offered the MenB vaccine which protects against meningococcal B disease. It will be administered alongside other routine infant vaccinations through the NHS Childhood Immunisation Programme, with a second dose given at 4 months and a booster at 12 months.
There will also be a limited catch-up programme for infants who are due their 3 and 4 month vaccinations in September.
The scheme was given the go-ahead in March after cost and supply issues were settled.
It means that England and Scotland will be among the first countries in the world to offer the vaccine to help protect against the deadly infection.
Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit at a later date.
From August 2015, all 17 and 18 year olds in England and Scotland will be offered a combined vaccine that protects against the A, C, W and Y strains of meningococcal disease.
The vaccine is being targeted at teenagers about to go to university, as they are at greater risk.
The jab will also be available to older students aged 19 to 25 who are starting university this autumn.
Additionally, from spring 2016, the MenACWY vaccine will be offered in schools to children in years 9 and 10, with a catch-up programme for those in year 11.
This school-based vaccine programme will replace the MenC-only vaccine currently offered to those in years 9 and 10.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord and is caused by different organisms, including bacteria and viruses.
The infection causes the membranes to become inflamed which can lead to nerve and brain damage.
The Meningitis Research Foundation says meningococcal disease is the biggest cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. In 10% of cases, it leads to death, and in 36% of cases there are long-term complications.
The MenACWY vaccination programme is in response to the continued increase in the number of cases of a virulent new strain of meningococcal W (MenW) meningitis and septicaemia.
Although Men W cases have increased in all age groups, there has been a significant increase in university students. Teenagers and young people are more likely to carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the charity Meningitis Now, says in a statement: "We’re delighted that yet another milestone in the journey to introduce these vaccines and protect our newborn babies and young people from the devastation meningitis causes has been reached - these measures will start to save lives straight away and for years to come."