Meningitis / Meningococcal Infections

Last updated In the UK, the vaccination schedule has recently changed quite a bit regarding Meningococcal vaccinations. The Men C vaccine is a longer established one and used to be referred to (incorrectly) as Meningitis C vaccine, given to infants at 3 months (plus boosters later on). There is still a Men C containing booster at age 1 year but the once given at 12 months was replaced with the new Men B vaccine given at 8 week. The Men B vaccine is thought to also have a cross-protecting effect against Men C. More recently a vaccine against infections from Men A, C, W, and Y, referred to as Men ACWY vaccine has been introduced for teenagers. Men B is a vaccine for infants, while Men ACWY is given in adolescence. [1] Infections from meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia. Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord and septicaemia is an infection of the blood (blood poisoning). Most of us carry meningococcus in us at various stages of our lives without becoming ill. This is thought to be important for the development of natural immunity. [2,3,4] Those who do get ill are usually infected by a carrier who did not have any symptoms. It is not known why some get ill from the bacterium (whose proper name is Neisseria meningitidis), so the general state of the immune system must be considered the most important defence. The European Medicines Agency public assessment report for one of the vaccines states: “The precise mechanism of immunity to meningococci is unknown, although it is thought to involve a complex interaction between innate and acquired immunity. Humoral immunity is thought to play a central role in host defence against N. meningitidis. Once an individual has become colonised…

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