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Childhood Meningitis C vaccine wears off in teens, Calls for teenage Meningitis booster grow PDF Print Email

Researchers suggest that Three-quarters of children vaccinated against meningitis C lose their protection against the disease by their early teens, researchers suggest.

 

The Oxford Vaccine Group research team at Oxford University says its findings fuel calls for a booster jab to be offered  to adolescents.

 

A study of 250 children aged six to 12 looked at immunity seven years after the jab was given. The children, who had all been vaccinated against meningitis C, were tested for levels of antibodies against the  bacteria in their bloodstream. Only a quater of the children had sufficiently high levels of the antibodies to give them protection against the disease.

The researchers say that British children are still protected against the potentially fatal bacteria at the moment, through the existence of herd immunity where vaccination has reduced the level of meningitis in the population to the extent that people who are not vaccinated are also protected.

But the researchers, led by Professor Andrew Pollard, told the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID)  meeting in Nice, France, that if herd immunity starts to decline many children will be vulnerable. Falling immunity levels  against meningitis C vaccination have been reported in Greece, the Netherlands and Spain.

Professor Pollard said: "This study is just the latest to show that the personal protection given by meningitis C vaccines  in early childhood doesn't last forever and several countries have now responded to these findings by introducing teenage  boosters, before protection fails in the population."

Austria, Canada and Switzerland have already introduced booster jabs.

Dr Jamie Findlow, deputy head of the Health Protection Agency's Vaccine Evaluation Unit in Manchester, said: "By giving each teenager a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine as they are entering adolescence, we can ensure that they are  protected when they most need it."

Professor Ray Borrow, head of the unit, said: "Parents should not be worried - at the moment cases of meningitis C are at  an all time low. In 2008-2009 in England and Wales there were just 13 cases - and nine of these were in adults over 25 who may not have  been vaccinated. We and other researchers are looking at how and when a booster could be introduced, but it doesn't have to come tomorrow." He said herd immunity should last until around 2015.

Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust said the Oxford team's research raised "significant concerns" and that "vaccination is the only way to prevent meningitis and save lives. We support the use of safe and effective vaccines and  encourage people to receive the vaccines that are currently available. If, as a result of this research, a booster programme is introduced, we would actively encourage the introduction of this."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The number of cases of meningococcal C disease is currently very low. "All new research on vaccines will be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation."