A new vaccine launched today can protect British travellers from four major strains of meningitis that they are at risk of contracting while travelling to different parts of the world, particularly Africa, as well as Saudi Arabia for the Hajj/Umrah pilgrimage.
The new vaccine, called Menveo® (Meningococcal Group A, C, W135 and Y Conjugate Vaccine) is the first quadrivalent conjugate vaccine available in Europe that protects adolescents from age 11 and adults against four of the five major strains of bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia worldwide.
Reporting on the efficacy of Menveo®, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has stated that "individuals should be advised that Menveo is likely to provide longer-lasting immunity" (than a polysaccharide vaccine).
The launch comes as a new survey has found that more than half of its respondents did not or will not get a meningitis vaccination for their trip to the Meningitis Belt in Africa, while two thirds of those who had already visited the Meningitis Belt were not vaccinated.
A huge swathe of Africa south of the Sahara, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, is known as the Meningitis Belt because of the frequency and severity of epidemics of the illness.
The predominant strains of meningitis across the world vary, making broad protection against the disease vital. In certain parts of Africa, the A meningitis strain causes a huge toll of illness and death and cases of W-135, once considered rare, are also increasing. The Y strain is also common in the USA and is increasingly being seen in South America.
The new survey found that a third of those declining meningitis vaccination, had been advised by their GPs that such immunisation was not required. 4
Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, a family doctor in Cambridge who is also the director of a travel clinic and the author of three travel health books, said that GPs and practice nurses needed support in the area of travel health.
"Many GPs and practice nurses refer people to specialist travel clinics for the travel vaccinations which are not available on the NHS. This being the case it is perhaps not surprising that a third of the survey respondents had not received any advice regarding meningitis vaccination from their surgery.
"There needs, therefore, to be much more information and support for GPs and nurses who are often travellers' first point of reference regarding immunisations. It is within the scope of our duty of care to provide information on travel immunisations that are not available free on the NHS even if we are not administering a vaccination."
Dr Wilson-Howarth continued: "On the whole travellers know little about the health risks that they might encounter when embarking on a holiday or even longer more exotic trips. As the survey suggests this is particularly the case for Africa where many people don't appreciate that the A, C, W135 and Y combination vaccination is recommended for countries in the Meningitis Belt."
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