Meningitis. It's not a word we parents like to think about or discuss, but one that is nevertheless on our minds. Meningitis is a scary disease (which one isn't scary?) that is particularly bad for children under one year of age. Now there's a new vaccine for newborns on the horizon, and to scientists it looks very promising.
According to statistics provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association in this article from USA Today, meningitis affects up to 2800 people a year, resulting in up to nearly 400 deaths. Anyone over 2 years of age can receive an existing vaccine. As a result, infants and toddlers under two years had little protection against meningococcal disease.
Now doctors are hoping a round of shots of Menveo, from Novartis, can provide that protection. Interestingly enough, the tests were done on babies in both the UK and the United States (as well as Canada). The infant vaccine was 94% effective when given with the standard UK schedule of 2, 3, 4 and then again at 12 months. In the US the vaccine was 86--100% effective when given at the standard 2, 4 and 12 months but showed varying levels of protection against the five different strains of the bacteria.
Meningititis can kill a healthy person in a matter of hours. Any sort of vaccine seems like a good answer to a major problem. Still, there are skeptics out there--and I admit I am one of them. Even though I had every vaccine available given to me as a child, with all this business about the rise of autism and the attempts to link it to vaccines, I am nervous about the introduction of yet another vaccine for our children.
Still, as my pediatricians put it, even if it were proven that there is a risk of getting autism from a vaccine the chances of that happening are very slim indeed when compared with what could happen to a child if that child remained unvaccinated.
Obviously, too, the trials of this drug are in the early stages and more testing is needed before any decisions can be made about whether or not its a go. From what I've read about meningitis it sounds incredibly awful and scary, so a vaccine to ward against it in our youngest children seems like a good idea!
Pic of infant vaccination by tiswango.