All teenagers aged 14-18 are to be immunised against a rare strain of meningitis after a surge in cases, with the Government working on a new national programme.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended has this is set up ‘as soon as possible’ as figures showed a rise in cases of Meningococcal W disease from 22 in 2009 to 117 last year.
Public Health England (PHE) stressed case numbers still remained ‘very low’ but urged GPs to be mindful of the increase in prevalence and take this into account when considering diagnoses for all age groups. Its analysis showed that the number of cases had risen from 22 in 2009 to 117 last year.
PHE said it had yet to be determined which group of health professionals would be administering the immunisation programme.
Deputy chief medical officer for England John Watson said: ‘We accept JCVI’s advice for an immunisation programme to combat this devastating disease. We are working with NHS England, Public Health England and the vaccine manufacturer to develop a plan to tackle the rising number of MenW cases.’
PHE paediatric infectious disease consultant Dr Shamez Ladhani said: ‘PHE is urging health professionals to be mindful of the increase in MenW disease and maintain a high index of suspicion across all age groups. Early recognition and effective treatment with antibiotics for patients with invasive MenW disease can be life-saving.’
JCVI chair Andrew Pollard said: ‘We have seen an increase in MenW cases this winter caused by a highly aggressive strain of the bug. We reviewed the outbreak in detail at JCVI and concluded that this increase was likely to continue in future years unless action is taken.
‘We have therefore advised the DH to implement a vaccination programme for teenagers as soon as possible, which we believe will have a substantial impact on the disease and protect the public’s health.’