Children Not Protected by Vaccine

11 May 2010, 06:00

Researchers in Oxford say three-quarters of children may not be protected against Meningitis

The Oxford Vaccine Group tested the immunity of 250 children, between the ages of 6 and 12, across Oxfordshire to find out if the jab was working after it's introduction 11 years ago.

But the scientists found the children's immunity against the illness wasn't as high as first thought, with three out of four having no personal protection against Meningitis C. Just 25% of children had sufficiently high levels of antibodies (defence cells) against the bacteria in their bloodstream.

But Professor Andrew Pollard, who led the Research, said parents should not be worried as the risk was extremely low, but a future booster programme against Meningitis C was likely to be necessary.

The vaccine was introduced as as part of the Childhood Immunisation Programme in 1999, meaning every child born in this country since then has had the jab.

Since then death rates from Meningitis C have massively decreased. In 2008, a Government immunisation report, found that in 2007 there were no deaths from the illness.

Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust said vaccination against the illness is still better than none at all.

"Vaccination is the only way to protect against meningitis and uptake of vaccines is extremely important. In the absences of a vaccine to protect against all strains of the disease, being vigilant of the signs and symptoms of Meningitis and trusting your instincts at all times, is vital."

The Researchers say that British children are still protected against the potentially fatal bacteria at the moment, through the existence of 'herd' community'. This is when even unvaccinated people are protected against bacteria or viruses, because vaccination drastically reduces the level of the germs in the population. But it's not clear how long this 'herd immunity' against Meningitis C will last, and if it starts to erode many children will be left vulnerable.