Kent teens help prove ‘herd immunity’ effect for meningitis vaccine

A study involving teenagers from Kent has found giving a meningitis vaccine to youngsters between 14 and 19 years old helps protect people of all ages.

More than 24,000 teens took part in the ‘Be on the TEAM’ study, including more than 3,239 students from 28 schools in Maidstone and the surrounding area, between March 2018 and November 2019.

Giving a meningitis vaccine to youngsters between 14 and 19 years old helps protect people of all ages. Stock picture

The study involved staff from the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust Research and Innovation department taking throat swabs to look for MenACWY and MenB, and immunising teenagers with the MenB vaccine.

The vaccine was given to youngsters as this is where transmission of the meningococcal bacteria is known to be the highest and could generate herd immunity.

Dr Rohit Gowda, a consultant paediatrician from Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust was the principal investigator on the research trial.

He said: “I am immensely proud that the hard work by our research team enabled us to involve large numbers of local teenagers in the study, which helped strengthen confidence in the study results.

“The results of the study show that immunising children and young adults of this age group against the four strains of Meningitis (ACWY) meant a significant reduction in the number of cases of meningitis, not only in the immunised teenagers but also in other members of their family and community.

“This highlights the need for all children and young people of this age who are eligible to have the vaccine to ensure they have it and are up to date with their immunisations.”

More than 24,000 teens took part in the study. Stock picture

The findings align with data from the UK showing the incidence of MenW disease has fallen in all age groups since the teenage MenACWY vaccine campaign.

Researchers have found the MenACWY vaccine substantially reduced carriage of the W and Y meningococcal groups, which cause the disease, and sustained low levels of the C group.

Taken together, the data provide strong evidence for the need to target age groups with high rates of meningococcal transmission to make the most effective use of these vaccines, and not necessarily immunising other age groups at high risk.

Professor Nick Lemoine, medical director of the National Institute for Health and Care Research Clinical Research Network, said: “This NIHR-supported study has provided important data on the effectiveness of MenACWY vaccines in inducing population immunity against meningitis – which has been shown to protect all ages against this potentially life-threatening disease.

“We want to thank the incredible 24,000 teenage participants who took part for their contributions.”

Kent Maidstone Juliana Cruz Lima

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