New Meningitis Vaccine Launched
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) covering the brain and the spinal cord, usually due to bacterial or viral infections elsewhere in body that has spread into the blood and into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Other causes of meningitis such as fungal, protozoal, or certain non-infectious etiologies are much rarer. Although the most common cause of meningitis is viral what may express a higher incidence during certain seasonable variations.
A new vaccine to protect children in Northern Ireland from meningitis is being introduced today. It will be given to infants under 15 months old to protect against the pneumococcal version of the killer disease. There will also be a “catch-up” programme to protect children up to the age of two years – the most vulnerable group.
Speaking today at Ormeau Health Centre, where a new TV advert on the subject was also unveiled, senior medical officer at the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Dr Lorraine Doherty, said: “This change is being made now to ensure that young people throughout Northern Ireland are being offered protection against very serious, vaccine-preventable diseases.
“The latest evidence shows that by vaccinating every child under the age of two, the number of cases of pneumococcal infection will be reduced by 80%.”
Babies will receive two doses for Meningitis C in the first few months and a booster at 12 months.
There will be another booster shot of Hib vaccine (a common cause of meningitis) at 12 months. This will be given as a combined Hib/Meningitis C vaccine.
Dr Doherty added: “These changes will now see the introduction of a vaccine that will offer protection against pneumococcal infection – a bacteria that can lead to serious illnesses such as meningitis, septicaemia (blood poisoning) and pneumonia.
“Meningitis is a very serious illness which can sometimes result in permanent disability, including deafness, speech and language problems, paralysis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and blindness. In the most serious cases a child can die from the disease.”The "Meningitis Belt" is an area in sub-Saharan Africa which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east in which large epidemics of meningococcal meningitis occur. It contains an estimated total population of 300 million people. The largest epidemic outbreak was in 1996, when over 250,000 cases occurred and 25,000 people died as a consequence of the disease
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