World Day Against Meningitis: one in three people does not know it is preventable

The debate around the vaccination of meningitis has been at the forefront for several years in Spain. And pediatricians of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) have long requested that children of all serogroups of meningococcus be immunized and that all of them be included in the official immunization schedule of the Ministry of Health and thus “be closed the circle and meningitis become an avoidable disease, “they say in a statement. Something that for healthcare professionals is “ethical and medical” .

Meningococcal disease (meningitis and sepsis) is rare, but very serious, both by the rapidity with which it evolves and its consequences: in 10% of cases it is fatal. In addition, one-third of children who survive suffer serious consequences, ranging from psychomotor retardation to blindness, deafness, epilepsy and even amputations. In 2018 there were 372 cases of meningococcal diseaseinvasive, of which 142 were for meningococcus B, 48 for strain W, 40 for C, 37 for Y and 1 for A. The rest was not typable. According to the pediatricians, “this is a historic moment in pediatrics because we have vaccines to cover all types of meningococcus, but unfortunately, we continue to see cases,” explains David Moreno, coordinator of the Vaccine Advisory Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (CAV-AEP), in the text.

In total, there are five immunizations that exist to deal with all types of meningitis caused by bacteria that occur in the pediatric age. Three of them have been included in the official vaccine calendars in all the autonomous communities for years:  Haemophilus influenza type B, meningococcal C and, since 2016, that of pneumococcus. Thanks to these immunizations, meningitis is more preventable than ever. The text of the AEP ensures that to put “the fence to this disease is essential for society to know and recognize it, and that the immunizations that exist to prevent it are accessible to the entire population.”

Vaccination schedules

Last March the ministry decided to include in the calendars the tetravalent vaccine against meningitis (which acts against serogroups ACWY) in substitution of the one that only protects against type C. The tetravalent will be added as mandatory from 12 years, although it will also be extended to the older population until age 18 to create sufficient group protection. Pediatricians consider that it would also be necessary to extend it to babies under one year of age.

This decision left out the vaccine against serogroup B, although its sale has been liberalized and sources from the AEP consider that a third of the parents have already bought it to put it on their babies. Several autonomous communities, such as Castilla y León and Canarias, have taken the initiative and have included this immunization in their calendars. The Administration justified its position regarding this vaccine in that it “shows a short duration of protection after vaccination” and in the “lack of effectiveness data and high reactogenicity when administered along with the vaccines of the calendar in the infant stage”.

The danger of misinformation about meningitis

“One out of every three people does not know that meningitis can be prevented, nor does it identify any symptoms of this disease,” says Moreno. This is the main conclusion of the survey that the AEP has carried out among the population (1,245 responses) and that shows the great ignorance that exists. “Recognizing the symptoms of meningitis is key to be able to act as soon as possible and avoid the consequences of a disease that in a matter of hours can have fatal consequences.”

With this objective, the AEP has launched its information campaign Meningitis: Closing the Circle. A film that will be told in a series of short films on the occasion of World Meningitis Day, which takes place this Wednesday, April 24 and that will invite the population, with the help of journalist Tania Llasera, to give visibility to meningitis in social networks making the gesture of # CerrandoElCírculo .

All the chapters of this series will be hosted on meningitis.aeped.es, a website that also includes basic information directed to the population about what is meningitis and sepsis, the two most serious clinical forms of the disease, which are the symptoms, how to recognize them to act quickly and how they can be prevented.

With this campaign, the pediatricians want to emphasize everything that “we have advanced in the prevention of the meningitis thanks to the information and to the vaccination; because all the research that has been done on this disease deserves to be told. We want to do it without alarmism, but also without complacency, because there is still a long way to go in both lines: more information is needed in families and health professionals, and also more access to vaccination. ”

Another AEP survey carried out on health professionals (1,483 responses), of which 76% were pediatricians, reveals that the knowledge that families have about meningococcal vaccines is insufficient and that 3 out of 5 professionals do not have enough training in meningococcal vaccines.

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