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Independent UK vaccination committee advises immunisation programme for Meningococcal W (MenW) disease

Posted: 19 March 2015 |

The JCVI has advised that immunisation should be offered to 14 -18 year-olds to prevent the transmission of meningococcal group W (MenW) disease…

MenW vaccination

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that immunisation should be offered to 14 -18 year-olds to prevent the transmission of meningococcal group W (MenW) disease.

MenW vaccination

This advice follows a report from Public Health England (PHE) that showed a continuing rise in cases of MenW since 2009. Whilst the number of MenW cases and overall risk remains very low, there has been an increase in prevalence with 117 cases last year.

Andrew Pollard, Chair of the JCVI, said:

“We have seen an increase in MenW cases this winter caused by a highly aggressive strain of the bug. We reviewed the outbreak in detail at JCVI and concluded that this increase was likely to continue in future years unless action is taken. We have therefore advised the Department of Health to implement a vaccination programme for teenagers as soon as possible which we believe will have a substantial impact on the disease and protect the public’s health.”

The Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England working together to tackle rising number of MenW cases

The Department of Health has accepted JCVI’s advice and is now planning the implementation of a combined MenACWY immunisation programme.

John Watson, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said:

“We accept JCVI’s advice for an immunisation programme to combat this devastating disease. We are working with NHS England, Public Health England and the vaccine manufacturer to develop a plan to tackle the rising number of MenW cases.”

Dr Shamez Ladhani, Paediatric Infectious Disease Consultant at PHE, said:

“Meningococcal group W disease is a rare but life-threatening infection in children and adults. We will now work with the Government and NHS England to roll out a vaccination programme. 

“It’s crucial that we all remain alert to the signs and symptoms of the disease and seek urgent medical attention if there is any concern. The disease develops rapidly and early symptoms can include: headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet. Be aware of all signs and symptoms – and don’t wait for a rash to develop before seeking urgent medical attention.

“PHE is also urging health professionals to be mindful of the increase in MenW disease and maintain a high index of suspicion across all age groups. Early recognition and effective treatment with antibiotics for patients with invasive MenW disease can be life-saving.”

For more information, please visit www.gov.uk/phe

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