30 June 2015

The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations welcomes the decision made during Wednesday’s meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices, when it was decided that the recommendation for serogroup B meningococcal vaccination would be expanded to include adolescents and young adults in the USA.

In February of this year the CDC voted to recommend the vaccines for adolescents aged 10 years and over but only for high-risk individuals. The latest recommendation is not restricted to those considered at high risk and specifies that the preferred age of vaccination is 16-18 years, though vaccines can be administered up to 23 years of age. The age range specified targets the group who have the highest incidence of the disease.

This new recommendation is a positive step towards a more comprehensive meningitis vaccine strategy. Currently adolescents in the USA are vaccinated against strains A, C, W and Y, but there has been no recommendation for protection from the B strain up until now. Many parents and young adults incorrectly believe that they are protected against all strains of meningitis because they have received the quadrivalent ACWY vaccine. It is therefore essential that we and other public health groups raise awareness of this latest decision, so that individuals can make informed decisions about their immunisations.  

We hope that in future the recommendation will be further expanded so that the vaccines are introduced as part of the routine immunisation schedule, but we are pleased that there has been some progress made.

Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of infection, but it is vital that we and other groups continue to raise awareness of the symptoms of meningitis so that any individual who does contract the disease can seek help immediately, increasing their chance of recovery. If any bacterial meningitis infection is left untreated there is a significant risk of disability, or even death.

With the progress made in the USA and the recent introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine into the routine schedule for infants in the UK, we are hopeful that other countries will also begin to introduce this potentially life-saving vaccine into their own programmes. It is our goal to prevent meningitis worldwide because we can and we should.

Bruce Langoulant, president of CoMO commented, “CoMO welcomes this broader age recommendation but is disappointed that the new vaccine is still not included in the funded schedule and leaves it up to parents or individuals to ‘decide’ to get vaccinated. Not enough people decide to get vaccinated until a death occurs or someone close is affected. That’s always too late and is a very risky approach.

Confusion and lack of knowledge about what people are vaccinated for and how much they are at risk are common.

This is where CoMO and our members play an important role. We continue our advocacy for the funding and national implementation of the MenB vaccines, but our public awareness campaigns on the signs and symptoms must also continue as parents need to be informed as time is critical. Young adults too need to look out for their own health and that of their friends.

Meningitis is an unfair disease.

Reaching the broader public requires the media to be engaged, reporting the facts quickly and accurately, and assisting us and medical professionals to give life-saving advice.”

For more information on the symptoms and possible after effects of meningitis, please follow this link: /facts-about-meningitis/. If you have any questions relating to this article please email samanthar@meningitis.org.