Department of Health advisers have recommended that a meningitis C vaccine dose should be moved from the infant schedule and replaced with a booster in teenagers.
The recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) comes after a study published last year demonstrated antibodies waned rapidly following infant vaccination and continued to decline into adolescence.
Currently infants receive two doses of meningitis C vaccine at three and four months of age, and a booster at 12 months with a catch up campaign in the under 25s.
The committee said this campaign had been successful, but there was a need to protect young children through better herd immunity as individual protection ‘does not last long’.
‘JCVI concludes that herd immunity could be maintained by introducing a booster dose in older children to increase protective antibody levels,’ minutes conclude.
Experts from the committee said the change in national policy on meningitis vaccination would be ‘cost neutral’ and will present recommendations in future about when and how the change should be implemented to ensure that coverage is sufficiently high.
Dr Anthony Harnden, a GP in Wheatley, Oxfordshire and member of the JCVI, said moving one dose from the infant schedule is ‘likely to be cost-effective’.
‘A booster dose of Men C is required in adolescence because of evidence of waning immunity after infant vaccination.’
‘Adolescents are potentially exposed to Men C because of mixing patterns and carriage which may result in the disease re-emerging in this age group. Following immunisation adolescents develop higher antibody levels which last for longer. Also there would be protection from herd immunity in this age group.
‘The optimal age and place of delivery of an adolescent MenC booster from a policy perspective is yet to be decided.’