Changes to the Men C vaccination programme

3rd November 2017

Following the very sad news of Kia, the little girl who has recently contracted Men C, we have had a number of questions about this type of meningitis

Men C vaccine

What is Men C (Meningococcal group C)?

Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening infection. It is a term used to describe two major illnesses – meningitis and septicaemia. Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium called the meningococcus. There are five main groups; A, B, C, W and Y, that cause disease around the world. In the UK, group B causes the majority of disease.

How common is Men C?

Men C (meningococcal group C), is now a very rare cause of meningitis in the UK. Before the introduction of the Men C vaccination in 1999, there were nearly 1000 cases a year and 70-80 deaths a year in England. Following the introduction of the Men C vaccination programme cases fell dramatically. There are currently around 30-40 cases each year in England across all ages. Cases in infants are now very rare.  

Men C vaccine

Up until July 2016, infants received their first dose of Men C at 12 weeks of age. Infants now receive their first dose of Men C, combined with Hib, when they are 12-13 months old. A booster is given as the Men ACWY vaccine, at around the age of 14 years. 

Why was the 12 week dose removed from the vaccination programme?

The 12 week vaccine was removed from the vaccine programme following advice from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).  This was because of the low risk of disease and good herd immunity. Teenagers are the group most likely to be carrying meningococcal bacteria and spreading the bacteria to other age groups. Teenagers have been vaccinated against Men C since 2013, thereby reducing the risk to the whole population. Another factor in removing the 12 week dose was the introduction of the Men B vaccine which is thought to offer some protection against other types of meningococcal bacteria including Men C.

Who monitors vaccine programmes?

Vaccination programmes are a complex issue, as bacteria and causes of disease continually change. The JCVI and Public Health England continually monitors the vaccines in the UK vaccine programme to ensure they give the best possible protection through the smallest number of vaccines given at the most effective times.

Can I get the Men C vaccine privately?

We would suggest you discuss this with your GP or Health Visitor in the first instance. 

Vaccines do not prevent all cases of meningitis. 

Vaccines are not 100% effective and vaccines do not exist to protect against all types of meningitis. Kia’s case sadly reminds us that despite having a world-leading vaccination programme for meningitis in the UK, cases of meningitis will continue to occur.  It also serves to remind us all of the need to know the signs of meningitis and seek urgent medical help if you have any concerns that you, a loved one or friend may be developing any of these symptoms.