CoMO calls for parents to be aware that meningitis vaccines do not fully protect against all types of the disease

PERTH, Australia, May 13, 2012 /CNW/ - New research presented at the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID) Annual Meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece shows that most parents (61%) surveyed as part of an international study of six countries are unaware that current vaccinations do not protect their children from all forms of meningitis.(1) The data from the survey of parents with infants under the age of two also show that only 16% of parents surveyed know that children under 12 months are at greatest risk of contracting the killer disease.(1)

Meningitis is a potentially deadly inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which can be the result of a virus, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and can be associated with a potentially life-threatening blood infection (sepsis).(2,3) Each year hundreds of thousands of people around the world die from meningitis, or suffer life-long disabilities. Bacterial meningitis, which is the most severe and common form, causes around 170,000 deaths globally every year.(3,4) While the disease can affect people of all ages, infants, children and adolescents are at an increased risk of infection.(5)

Further results from the study showed that:(1)

  • Fewer than 4 in 10 parents (900/2460) knew their child had already received a meningococcal vaccine.
  • Parents in Australia, Canada, Spain and the UK were more likely to know if their child had been vaccinated against meningococcal disease, compared to parents in France, Germany and Sweden.
  • Almost 50% of Swedish parents said they were unsure of their child's meningococcal vaccine status.
  • Compared with parents in other countries, parents in France and the UK were more likely to realise there were other types of meningitis not covered by current vaccines.
  • After exposure to meningococcal B disease (MenB) information more parents (68% vs. 54% prior to seeing this information) predicted they would be highly likely to accept vaccination for their child (0-6 months of age) against MenB, if approved and recommended by their child's healthcare provider.
  • Parents in Australia, Spain, and the UK were the most likely to allow their child to receive MenB vaccination; French parents were relatively less likely.

Although great strides have been made over the last decade with the introduction of vaccines for some types of meningitis, there is currently no broadly-effective vaccine to protect against MenB.(6) Candidate vaccines for this type of meningitis are currently in development.

One of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisation's (CoMO's) founding members based in the UK, The Meningitis Trust, was involved in the study. Sue Davie, Chief Executive and co-author of the international survey, commented on the lack of awareness about vaccine protection against meningitis.

"This misunderstanding about meningitis vaccine protection suggests that the majority of parents do not consider meningitis when their child is ill, thinking they are protected. Sadly, this can cost lives or lead to a child facing a future changed forever with devastating after-effects," Sue Davie said.

"We have to address this complacency as a matter of urgency and ensure meningitis remains at the forefront of parents' minds while there are not vaccines available for all types of this disease."

Commenting on the global significance of the data, Bruce Langoulant, President and Member of the Governing Council of CoMO and father of a meningitis survivor with significant disabilities said: "We are proud that one of our founding members, The Meningitis Trust, has been involved in such significant global research. It's clear from the new data presented that there is potentially a worldwide lack of awareness that meningitis vaccines do not fully protect against all types of the disease – something that the global community needs to work on. In the absence of vaccines for all types of meningitis, it is critically important that parents know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and understand the urgency to treat the disease."

To drive better awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis, CoMO recently launched a video entitled 'If I'd known then what I know now' that features a range of people affected by meningitis and shares their knowledge in an effort to educate others and reduce the incidence of those impacted by the disease. The video can be accessed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/COMOmeningitis/featured.

Notes to Editors

About the Survey

  • 2,460 parents (with a child under two) and 725 healthcare professionals from across Europe, Canada and Australia were surveyed.
  • The countries surveyed were Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
  • The survey was conducted between 5 September and 1 November 2011.
  • The survey was conducted by IPSOS Healthcare on behalf of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, who sponsored the research.

About Meningitis
Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and can be the result of infection by bacteria, viruses and fungi.(2) Bacterial meningitis is the most serious type of meningitis, and it is often associated with a potentially life-threatening blood infection (sepsis).(2,3) The most common bacteria causing meningitis and septicaemia are Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal) and Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal).(3)

Meningitis can develop rapidly and its symptoms often resemble the flu (e.g., fever, drowsiness and headache), which makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose and patients/family members to recognise.(5) Even with early and appropriate treatment, the rates of death and serious long-term effects of the disease can be high.(2) Survivors often suffer serious long-term consequences, such as deafness, brain damage, and limb loss.(2,4) While the disease can affect people of all ages, infants, children and adolescents are at an increased risk of infection.(5) Immunisation against bacterial meningitis with those vaccines that are available is essential;(2) no one should suffer from this disease.

About the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO)
CoMO was founded in September 2004, at the close of a World Conference of Meningitis Organisations. Encouraged by the information shared at the meeting, 20 delegates formed CoMO in order to help support the fight against meningitis by emphasising the global burden of the disease and supporting the establishment of new meningitis and children's health organisations.

CoMO now has 34 members in 22 countries around the globe. The global organisation is focussed on stopping meningitis worldwide and supporting its member organisations in raising awareness about meningitis, growing its membership base to provide support to as many countries across the world as possible, and supporting those dealing with the potentially devastating consequences of this disease.

To learn more about CoMO and its member organisations, visit www.comoonline.org.

References

(1)

Rodrigo C, Bakhache P, Rose M, et al. Parental awareness and knowledge about invasive meningococcal disease: results of a multinational survey. Poster presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases, 8-12 May 2012.

(2)

WHO. Meningococcal meningitis. Fact sheet No141. December 2011. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en/index.html. Accessed March 2012

(3)

CDC. Meningitis questions & answers. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/index.html. Accessed March 2012.

(4)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book: Course Textbook). 10th Edition, 2nd printing. February 2008 update. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/mening.pdf. Accessed March 2012.

(5)

CDC. Factsheet: Meningococcal Disease and Meningococcal Vaccine. November 16, 2011. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/vac-mening-fs.htm. Accessed March 2012.

(6)

Meningitis Trust factsheet. Meningitis vaccines: The facts. Available at: www.meningitis-trust.org/meningitis-info/what-is-meningitis/vaccines/. Accessed April 2012.

SOURCE Confederation of Meningitis Organisations

For further information:

Georgia Ball of Marketing & Fundraising Officer of CoMO, +61 499 078 577, gball@ichr.uwa.au, or Jessica Langoulant, Marketing & Communications Officer, +61 8 9489 7789, +61 408 926 305, jlangoulant@ichr.uwa.au

http://www.comoonline.org