Babies and children * Young people

Teens may need Meningitis C booster

Immunity wears off, study finds

Three out of four teenagers may not be protected against meningitis C, despite being vaccinated against the disease, scientists say.

In the UK, a vaccination programme against the life threatening bacterium started in 1999. The vaccine is routinely given to infants at age three, four and twelve months.

However, research by scientists from Oxford University suggests the vaccine will not give lifelong protection against the disease. This means a booster jab may be needed later in life.

In the study, scientists tested for meningitis C antibodies in blood samples taken from 250 British children aged between six and twelve years old. All had been inoculated against the disease.

Only one in four children had blood antibody levels which would protect them from illness if they became infected with the bacterium.

However, the researchers stressed the risk of children being infected and developing serious illness was still low due to herd immunity. Because a large proportion of children are vaccinated against meningitis C, the risk of being infected and the disease spreading is still low.

The research was presented by Professor Andrew Pollard from the Oxford Vaccine Group at the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases meeting in Nice, France.

Dr Pollard said: "This study is just the latest to show that personal protection given by meningitis C vaccines in early childhood doesn't last forever and several countries have responded to these findings by introducing teenage boosters, before protection falls in the population."

Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, said: “Vaccination is the only way to prevent meningitis and save lives.

"We support the use of safe and effective vaccines and encourage people to receive the vaccines that are currently available.

"If, as a result of this research, a booster programme is introduced, we would actively encourage the introduction of this."

This article was published on Mon 10 May 2010

Image © Dmitry Naumov -

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