Protecting populations through immunisation programmes is a highly successful, evidence based public health intervention that saves many lives annually. This year has seen the introduction of two new vaccines against different types of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia, conditions that even with antibiotics and modern medicine have the potential to cause serious harm and even death.
A vaccine against MenB was introduced in September 2015 to babies born on or after the 1st May. This vaccine (Bexsero) will be routinely offered to babies at the ages of two and four months alongside other routine immunisations. These babies will also be offered a booster dose at around 12-13 months of age. The introduction of this vaccine represents a major milestone in preventing cases of bacterial meningitis in babies and infants and compliments existing immunisation programmes against other important causes of bacterial meningitis such as MenC, pneumococcus and Hib.
The vaccine against MenACWY was introduced in August as an emergency programme in response to an increase in the number of cases of MenW, whilst also continuing the protection already offered to teenagers and university new entrants against MenC. The new MenACWY immunisation programme in 2015/16 is focussing on those who were of school year 13 age at the end of August, this includes the whole age cohort, not just those who left school year 13. In addition the vaccine is also being offered to first time university entrants and to adolescents in schools replacing the previously used MenC vaccine.
These immunisation programmes represent Public Health England’s continued efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of children and young people and give infants the best possible start in life. Practice nurses and school nurses will be at the frontline of delivering the new MenB and MenACWY programmes and their skills as immunisers, as well as the skills of health visitors in promoting immunisations to parents will be key to the success of these programmes and protecting the health of children and young people.
David Green, Nurse Consultant, Immunisations, Public Health England
Angela Edwards, Senior Flu Lead, Public Health England
Joanne Bosanquet, Deputy Chief Nurse, Public Health England