We have today learned that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has decided to implement recommended changes its pneumococcal vaccination schedule for babies.
The changes, which were recommended by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a panel of expert clinicians, researchers and scientists, are expected to take effect later in 2019. The move will see a reduction in the number of pneumococcal vaccine doses offered to babies from the current three doses, at 2, 4 and 12 months, to two doses at 3 and 12 months.
As the largest meningitis patient group in the UK, we have expressed our concerns about the changes which may lead to a small increase in pneumococcal meningitis. Through our written submissions and letters to the Health Minister, we echo the views of many of our supporters that any increase in case numbers is unacceptable and that it will hold DHSC to account should case numbers escalate.
In emphasising the importance of effective communication with parents during the implementation period, we have offered DHCS our assistance in helping to ensure that parents both understand what the changes in the vaccine schedule means to them and what actions to take should they suspect meningitis.
Dr Tom Nutt, CEO, said: “Whilst we have confidence around the government’s surveillance programme to monitor cases of meningitis and recognise that pneumococcal meningitis is a relatively rare disease, we are concerned about the impact these changes may have on case numbers. We will therefore be scrutinising disease reporting very carefully and challenging any upward changes that may occur.
“In the meantime, we have offered our help in communicating these changes to parents and hope that DHSC engages fully with us to ensure that public confidence is retained in our meningitis vaccination programmes”.