New vaccine to tackle meningitis


A NEW vaccine to help fight meningitis is to be introduced in Ireland in October. Its introduction has been welcomed by the Meningitis Research Foundation.

A vaccine for seven strains of pneumococcal bacteria, one of the causes of meningitis and septicaemia, is already used as part of the immunisation programme here. However, the new jab will vaccinate against six further strains. This will mean children will be protected against the most serious pneumococcal infections.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord and septicaemia is blood poisoning. The conditions can be caused by meningococcal or pneumococcal bacteria.

Pneumococcal bacteria also cause conditions such as pneumonia and severe ear infections.

One in 10 people who contract bacterial meningitis and septicaemia die from it. Others can be left with after-effects, including brain damage, deafness and multiple amputations.

In 2008, 255 people contracted bacterial meningitis and 16 died. Numbers getting the illness have more than halved since 2000, when a vaccine against type C meningococcal meningitis was introduced.

Diane McConnell, Ireland manager at the foundation, said pneumococcal disease caused untold damage both in Ireland and around the world.

“Pneumococcal meningitis is one of the most deadly forms of the disease; it has a higher mortality rate than other forms and survivors are more likely to have after-effects, including deafness, seizures and long-term brain damage. We are delighted this vaccine is being introduced to further protect children against pneumococcal meningitis.”