SUS: age group for extended meningitis vaccination for children – Health

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With the expansion of the age group, children up to 11 can be vaccinated against meningitis free of charge (photo: Agência Brasil/Reprodução)

Due to low vaccination coverage, the Ministry of Health’s National Immunization Program (PNI) has extended free vaccination against meningococcal meningitis caused by meningococcus C to all children under 11 years of age who have not yet received the immunizing agent.

Previously, the vaccine against the disease was only available to children under 5 years old by the Single Health System (SUS). The measure is valid until December this year and aims to prevent outbreaks of the disease, in addition to optimizing the use of vaccine doses, due to the low consumption in recent years.

The immunizing agent against the disease caused by meningococcus C is also offered free of charge at health centers for babies, with doses given at 3 and 5 months of age, and a booster at 12 months. For adolescents aged 11 and 12 years, the vaccine against serogroups A, C, W and Y is available in a single dose.

Reflections of the pandemic on vaccination of other diseases

A survey conducted between January and February 2021 revealed that approximately 50% of parents in Brazil, the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Argentina and Australia delayed or canceled their children’s vaccination against meningococcal meningitis during the COVID pandemic. 19.

The survey was carried out by the market research company based in England, Ipsos MORI. The results converge with the data from the Brazilian PNI, which show that, until August 2021, only 49% of the target audience for the meningococcal C vaccine had complied with the recommended vaccination schedule. In 2020, vaccination coverage was also low, at 78%.

For the pediatrician and president of the Brazilian Society of Immunizations, Juarez Cunha, this expansion is a great opportunity to update the vaccination booklet for children and adolescents.

“Because of the abandonment of the vaccine, children and adolescents, a group sensitive to the contamination and transmission of meningococcus, are more vulnerable to the risks of the disease”, he points out.

According to the doctor, serogroup C is the one with the highest incidence in the country, accounting for about 60% of cases of meningococcal disease. “In addition, adolescents and young adults are the main responsible for the transmission of the disease, due to the high rates of carrier status of meningococcus bacteria in the nasopharynx”, he adds.

Juarez Cunha also believes that the expansion will bring benefits to society as a whole. “From this expansion, we will have the chance to control the transmission of the disease, increasing vaccine coverage, thus avoiding the occurrence of outbreaks of the disease by serogroup C, hospitalizations, sequelae, treatments and deaths”.

Have you ever heard about Meningitis Meningoccica?

Meningitis is a disease that can be caused by a variety of infectious agents, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In general, the most serious of them is bacterial meningitis and, among them, meningococcal meningitis stands out.

The infection is caused when the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (or meningococcus) reach the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This variation of the disease has a fast evolution and high lethality. In 24 hours, the patient can progress to a very serious condition.

Transmitted by contact with droplets or respiratory secretions through coughing, sneezing or kissing an infected person, meningococcal meningitis mainly affects children, but it can manifest itself in any age group.

According to infectologist, Dr. Lessandra Michelin, the major challenge of the disease is the early diagnosis, which is crucial for the survival or reduction of sequelae in the patient, especially in times of pandemic. “I need to be aware of the first signs, which are often confused with those of other infections, including COVID-19”, he emphasizes.

“To minimize all risks, vaccination is emerging as the most effective form of prevention against the disease”, says the specialist.

Initial symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can include high fever, irritability, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Subsequently, the patient may have small bruises on the skin, stiffness in the back of the neck, and sensitivity to light.

If not treated promptly, the condition can progress to mental confusion, seizure, shock, generalized infection, multiple organ failure, and risk of death.

She also clarifies that some precautions can reinforce the prevention of the disease. “In addition to vaccination, other ways to prevent meningococcal meningitis include avoiding crowds and keeping environments ventilated and clean.”

In cases of people who have had close contact with a patient with confirmed disease, regardless of vaccination status, seek essential medical help. According to the infectologist, the prescription of antibiotics helps in prevention.

Discover the vaccines available against the disease in the private network

Currently, in Brazil, there are vaccines for the prevention of the five most common serogroups or types of meningococcus: A, B, C, W and Y. To protect serogroup B, vaccination is only available in the private network and parents should pay attention to vaccination deadlines.

The doses applied by the private health system are foreseen for 3 and 5 months of age, and another one between 12 and 15 months. Children over 24 months will follow the 2-dose schedule with an interval of 1 ms.

Also starting at 3 months of life and can be applied at the same time as B, private clinics still offer the ACWY vaccine, with a complementary dose between 5 and 6 years, and another at 11 years.