GPs could be asked to vaccinate 3.3m teenagers against meningitis strain

GPs could be asked to vaccinate all 14- 18-year-olds in England against a strain of meningococcal disease, under a programme announced by Public Health England (PHE).

Consultation: all 14- to 18-year-olds could be vaccinated
Consultation: all 14- to 18-year-olds could be vaccinated

The vaccine will protect against meningococcal W (MenW), a ‘highly aggressive’ disease that has been on the rise since 2009, with 117 cases reported last year.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that a national vaccination programme for MenW was needed to curb an outbreak of the disease.

The DH has accepted the recommendation and now plans to implement a combined MenACWY immunisation programme for the 3.3m 14- 18-year-olds in England.

A PHE spokeswoman told GP that details of the programme - including how it will be implemented and who will be carrying out the vaccinations - are still being discussed, but it will be rolled out ‘as soon as possible’. GP practices could be asked to deliver the vaccinations, she said.

Disease outbreak

There were 34 cases of MenW in England in January 2015, compared to 18 in January 2014 and nine in January 2013, according to PHE figures.

‘We reviewed the outbreak in detail at JCVI and concluded that this increase was likely to continue in future years unless action is taken,’ said JCVI chairman Dr Andrew Pollard.

The vaccine ‘will have a substantial impact on the disease and protect the public’s health’, he added.

GPs were also warned to be alert of MenW cases across all ages. ‘PHE is also urging health professionals to be mindful of the increase in MenW disease and maintain a high index of suspicion across all age groups,’ said Dr Shamez Ladhani, Paediatric Infectious Disease Consultant at PHE.

‘Early recognition and effective treatment with antibiotics for patients with invasive MenW disease can be life-saving.’

Early symptoms can include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet.

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