HSE rules out adopting UK’s meningitis strategy

Meningitis cases in Ireland falling since 2012, following use of meningitis C vaccine

Britain’s National Health Service  is urging young people starting third level this autumn to get a vaccination against meningitis W.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Britain’s National Health Service is urging young people starting third level this autumn to get a vaccination against meningitis W. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it has no plans to follow the example of the UK by providing a vaccination programme for school-leavers against a potentially deadly strain of meningitis.

The National Health Service (NHS) in Britain is urging young people starting third level this autumn to get a vaccination against meningitis W, following a steep rise in cases involving this strain. It says students are at risk as they often socialise with unfamiliar people, some of whom could be unknowingly carrying the bug.

Meningitis W infection is fatal in 10 per cent of cases and can lead to long-term health problems including deafness, epilepsy and amputations.

The UK last year expanded its meningitis vaccination programme for adolescents to cover the A, C, W and Y strains in response to the tenfold increase in meningitis W cases over the past six years. A catch-up programme was also introduced for older teenagers.

In Ireland, meningitis W accounts for two to three cases a year on average, the HSE says.

So far this year, there have been five cases, the same number as in the whole of last year.

Six meningitis Y cases have also been reported this year.

Irish epidemiology

The number of meningitis cases in Ireland has been falling since 2012, following the introduction of a meningitis C vaccine two years earlier.

This is given to babies at four and 13 months of age, with an adolescent booster given in the first year of second-level education.

A vaccine against meningitis W is available privately at a cost of about €110.