New vaccines to provide protection against life-threatening meningitis

Two new vaccines are being introduced to offer protection against strains of meningitis.
Two new vaccines are being introduced to offer protection against strains of meningitis.

Two new vaccines will be introduced in Scotland later this year offering protection against life-threatening strains of meningitis.

The Scottish Government has announced that from September 1, the meningitis B vaccine included in the routine childhood vaccination programme.

Scotland will be one of the few nations in the world to offer the vaccination.

Its will be given in three doses at two, four and 12 months, with all infants who are aged two months when the vaccine is introduced being eligible. There will also be a catch-up programme for infants aged three and four months.

Additionally, in response to an increase in the number of cases of meningitis W, and based on advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, a MenACWY vaccine will be introduced to replace the MenC vaccine used in the adolescents and freshers vaccination programmes.

From 1 August, that vaccine will be offered to students under the age of 25 attending university for the first time this autumn, along with a catch-up programme for all 14 to 18 year olds.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “These two new vaccination programmes will offer families in Scotland extra peace of mind.

“We’re delighted to be one of the first countries in the world to introduce a nationwide MenB vaccination programme to help tackle the effects of this disease, which can be devastating for children and their families.

“Around 1200 people – mainly babies and children – get meningitis B each year in the UK, and around one in 10 die from the infection.

“I am also very pleased to see the expedited launch of the MenW vaccine prevention programme for teenagers. This vaccine also protects against MenA, MenC and MenY, making sure young people are protected at such an important time in their academic lives.”

Sue Davie, chief executive of Meningitis Now, was delighted to see these vaccination programmes offering protection to new babies and young people across Scotland.

She said: “This announcement is a tribute to the tireless and selfless efforts of our supporters, for many of whom sadly these vaccines come too late. We are ready to support the introductions in any way we can.”

Mary Millar, Scotland manager of Meningitis Research Foundation, added: “These two programmes are the culmination of years of research which will spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one die or left seriously disabled by meningitis and septicaemia.”

Gemma Lessells’ son Matthew contracted meningitis B in 2010 when he was 13 months old. Late in the afternoon, he was quiet and had a temperature. By tea time, he started being sick. By 10pm, he was in hospital fighting for his life.

Gemma said: “We were incredibly lucky – Matthew survived, though he has delayed expressive speech and suffered night terrors following his hospital stay. We are also in the process of discussing possible behavioural side effects with his health visitor, but other than that we have a gorgeous healthy happy boy with a laugh that lights up a room.

“I would not want any parent or child to go through what we did, and welcome news of the implementation of these two new vaccines in Scotland.”