Vaccine experts recommend MenC teenage booster

A MenC booster vaccine is likely to be introduced for teenagers in the UK, in line with expert advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. This would provide long-lasting protection against meningococcal disease caused by type C bacteria, which causes the life-threatening conditions meningitis and septicaemia.

Currently in the UK, babies are given two doses of MenC vaccine at 3 and 4 months of age, followed by a booster at 13 months, to protect them against the disease. This set of vaccinations, introduced in 1999, has had a dramatic effect, having prevented over 9000 cases of serious disease and more than 1000 deaths. But this protection does not last well, and most older children will be relying on herd immunity and the low incidence of disease rather than their own individual immunity. Older children produce a longer-lasting response to vaccination, so a booster given during adolescence would provide protection into early adulthood and possibly beyond. The booster would be given to children aged 13-14 years, alongside the current teenage vaccine that boosts protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio.

To cover the cost of this new vaccination, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) suggests the possibility of changing the infant schedule to one dose of MenC at 3 months of age followed by the booster at 13 months. A recent study shows that this produces similar levels of protection to the current schedule. In this way, without any increase in spending, the overall level of protection can be increased to ensure that the number of people affected by MenC disease remains very low.

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