Following news that the head of the NHS in England has warned so-called vaccine refusal is a “growing public health time bomb”, Meningitis Now CEO Dr Tom Nutt said that this trend could lead to an increase in the number of meningitis cases in the UK.
The potentially deadly disease has become thankfully more rare over the last few years, mainly due to the introduction of meningitis vaccinations into the NHS schedule. This includes the MenACWY vaccine, which is now routinely offered to schoolchildren.
But a failure to take up these immunisations could and will lead to an increase in meningitis cases, including in babies and toddlers.
“The NHS is highlighting today the importance of herd immunity for measles, but the same is true of meningitis,” Dr Nutt warned.
“The fewer people who are immunised, the more people will be at risk."
“We run annual campaigns to urge young people going to university who missed the scheduled vaccination at school to make sure they are covered, but herd immunity can affect anyone, whatever their age."
“So even if it is older people who are not getting immunised, it may be babies who are affected.”
He also warned one of the most vulnerable groups of people are adults over 55 – and that many in this age group do not realise the risks. Last year, Meningitis Now ran an Adults Get it Too campaign to highlight this issue.
Wouldn't have dreamed of missing out
Meningitis Now supporter and Community Ambassador Val Stephenson, whose daughter Lydia caught meningitis as a toddler, said that she agreed it was so important for people to make sure they were vaccinated.
“It’s vital that everyone makes sure they – and their children – are fully up to date with all their vaccinations,” she said.
“My daughter Lydia was unlucky, she caught MenC just weeks before she was due to be vaccinated and we actually got the letter for her appointment while she was in hospital recovering."
“But had we had the chance, we wouldn’t have dreamed of missing out on the vaccination."
“Because of herd immunity, it’s so important that as many people as possible are covered: you might be putting not only yourself or your own children at risk, but potentially harming others too."
“I would urge everyone to check that they have had all immunisations that are available to them”.