14 October 2015
CoMO is seeking to widen vaccination efforts. We want to ensure that all vaccinations that can protect against meningitis, become a fully functioning part of countries’ routine immunisation schedules. By doing this, we can help to protect more individuals from meningitis, throughout the whole of their lives.
But what does it mean to “widen” vaccination efforts? Does this mean that routine immunisation schedules become more inclusive of all age groups in society? Or that we develop new vaccines, such as the new MenB vaccine, to protect against more strains of meningococcal disease? Both of these actions absolutely fulfil part of widening vaccination efforts, but did you realise that other vaccinations, such as those protecting against pneumonia or shingles, or mumps and measles, actually help to protect you against meningitis too?
We all know that current meningitis vaccination efforts are, understandably, mainly focused on babies and infants and, in some countries’ cases, on teenagers too. Yet here at CoMO, we want meningitis vaccination efforts to be widened to encompass all ages; in other words, we want a life-course approach to vaccination.
Which vaccinations then are we specifically interested in with our campaign for life-course immunisation? Well, of course, those vaccines that directly protect against meningitis, such as vaccinations against meningococcal disease and pneumococcal disease, but we are also interested in those that protect against pertussis (whooping cough), herpes zoster (shingles) and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella).
So, how does a vaccination against pneumococcal disease help to protect us from pneumonia and meningitis? Interestingly, the pneumococcus bacteria that can cause pneumonia, can cause meningitis too and therefore, by vaccinating against pneumococcal disease, we are vaccinating against pneumonia and meningitis.
Moreover, data shows that older people are the most likely age group in society to suffer from pneumonia. An older person’s immune system is weaker than that of their younger counterparts’ and thus, when it comes to pneumonia, older people need even more protection than babies and infants. Evidently, this is one of the reasons why we are campaigning for a life-course approach to vaccination.
The same can be said of shingles, because this illness can lead to a person developing the viral form of meningitis. Again, shingles is a disease that predominantly affects over sixty-five year olds. Is the need for a life-course approach to meningitis now starting to make sense? We certainly hope so.
The European Commission considers that vaccination is one of the most cost-effective public health measures to tackle disease, and we couldn’t agree more. If we can protect against illnesses, which can lead onto more devastating diseases such as meningitis, then we should.
We believe that life-course vaccination ought to be seen as a public health priority. So, are you willing to join us in supporting our campaign for life-course immunisation on social media? Please adopt #LifeCourseImmunisation for anything you Tweet or post on Facebook relevant to our campaign. Remember, there are many vaccines that can help to protect against meningitis, so let’s make sure that we make use of them all, because: ‘ANYONE can catch meningitis, therefore EVERYONE has the right to access prevention and treatment’.
Photo credit: Richard Foster
Natalie is a recent graduate from the University of Birmingham, where she studied International Relations with French. She has particular expertise in the international political economy and its relation with international healthcare organisations. She is an intern at CoMO, where she is currently working on the Life-Course Immunisation Initiative.