Babies and young children can be protected from rare but life-threatening meningococcal disease at an early age through a variety of vaccines. However, there is often a lack of education: Many parents do not know, for example, that their children are not fully protected against meningococci by the STIKO-recommended standard vaccination alone. The World Vaccination Week of the WHO from 24. up to 30. April aims to raise global awareness of importance of vaccinations.
Not only since the COVID-19 pandemic has it become clear how important vaccinations are for society. They have been used for over 200 years. Considered one of the greatest achievements of medicine. Yet millions of children around the world still miss out on important vaccinations in their early years that could protect them from infectious diseases that are preventable.¹
The WHO (World Health Organization) pursues u. a. The goal of eradicating meningitis diseases by 2030.² This has already been achieved in the past through successful vaccination campaigns with other diseases, z. B. with polio, succeeded.
Hanna's meningococcal meningitis was detected late in life
Babies and toddlers are particularly susceptible to meningococcal disease because their immune system is not yet fully developed.³ The bacteria can cause meningitis (inflammation of the brain) and sepsis (blood poisoning).⁴ Meningococci rarely lead to illness, but these can then quickly become life-threatening and have severe sequelae.³ Due to the nonspecific and flu-like symptoms, meningococcal diseases are difficult to recognize at first and are therefore often diagnosed at a late stage.²
Miriam has experienced this herself. Her daughter Hanna contracted meningococcal meningitis at the age of six months. Only by the second pediatrician Hanna with her symptoms was then immediately sent to the next hospital. "My substitute pediatrician sent us home earlier saying she had already had 20 children with the same symptoms today." Little Hanna had to go to intensive care immediately. She survived – fortunately without consequential damage.
For her mother, this time of uncertainty and fear is nevertheless the trigger to talk about her experience and to educate other parents: "I wouldn't wish it on anyone to stand outside the intensive care unit and fear whether your child will make it. Therefore, other parents should be aware of what options are available to best protect children."
Many parents know only one vaccination against meningococcal disease
Three different vaccines are available against meningococcal disease: group C, group B and group ACWY in combination. Meningococcal C vaccination is recommended by the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) as standard for all children 12 months of age.⁵ Many parents therefore only know about this vaccination and do not know that their child is not extensively protected against meningococci with it.
More than 60% of meningococcal cases in Germany are caused by group B, followed by Y and C.⁶ The additional possible vaccinations against groups B and ACWY are already reimbursed by many health insurers on request.