Meningitis C Vaccine

Published:

The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) wishes to point out that a recent media report claiming a child entered a coma as a result of receiving the Meningitis C vaccine is incorrect. There were also a number of other misleading inaccuracies in the article.

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has confirmed the child did not enter a coma but in fact experienced a faint lasting approximately 10 minutes. The child was not hospitalized and made a complete recovery. The IMB have also stated that they are completely unaware of the reported "case of inflammation in the lining of the brain" as referred to in the article.

In addition, the claim made in the article that the Meningitis C vaccine is suspected to have caused Meningitis C infection in three children is incorrect. Two of the children developed Meningitis B which is a different strain of meningococcal infection which the Meningitis C vaccine does not protect against.

In the third case, infection with Meningitis C occurred in a previously vaccinated person as the vaccine was not fully effective in providing protection in this incidence. However, that person has recovered. The Meningitis C vaccine is not a live vaccine and therefore cannot cause the disease itself.

To date, 350,000 doses of the Meningitis C vaccine have been distributed in Ireland and side effects have been reported in 143 children. There are some side effects associated with the vaccine, which are generally not serious. These occur in all age groups and include nausea, vomiting, headache and a feeling of general malaise or aches and pains. We wish to reiterate that such side effects and reactions were expected and the balance of risk and benefit is overwhelmingly favourable.

Given that one in ten people who suffer Meningitis C die from the infection, this demonstrates that the vaccines have already saved many lives. The meningitis C vaccination provides a clear benefit in terms of lives saved and disabilities prevented. As a result the National Disease Surveillance Centre strongly recommends that those due to be vaccinated should receive the meningitis C vaccine.

To date over 15 million doses of the Meningitis C vaccines have been distributed in the UK. Last winter there was approximately a 75% reduction in the number of confirmed cases of meningitis C disease in the 15-17 and under 1 year olds (the first group to be vaccinated) compared to the pervious winter.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of Meningococcal Group C infection in the developed world and the infection claimed 11 lives out of the 165 confirmed cases reported in Ireland between July 1999 and June 2000. There has also been a 43% increase in the incidence of meningitis Group C infection in the last year and therefore it is of great concern to health professionals in Ireland.

The National Meningitis C Immunisation Programme was launched in Ireland on the 4th October 2000 by Mr Mícheál Martin, T.D. and Minister for Health and Children. The immunisation programme will involve approximately 1.3 million people. Every person in Ireland aged 22 or under will be offered immunisation as part of this phased programme.