Many children are not fully protected against meningococci – CleanKids Magazine

Infants and young children can be protected from rare but life-threatening meningococcal diseases at an early age with various vaccinations. However, there is often a lack of education: many parents do not know, for example, that their children are not fully protected against meningococcus with the standard vaccination recommended by STIKO. The World Health Organization (WHO) World Immunization Week from April 24-30 aims to raise awareness worldwide of the importance of vaccines.

Not only since the COVID-19 pandemic has it become clear how important vaccines are to society. They have been used for over 200 years and are considered one of the greatest achievements in medicine. However, millions of children around the world still miss out on important vaccines in their early years that can protect them from preventable infectious diseases.1 One of the WHO’s goals is to eliminate meningitis by 2030.2 This has already happened in the past with other diseases, such as B. with polio, it worked.

Hanna's meningococcal meningitis was recognized late

Miriam with her daughter Hanna, who contracted meningococcus as a child. – Photo: © GlaxoSmithKline GmbH & Co. KG

Hanna’s meningococcal meningitis was recognized late

Infants and young children are especially susceptible to meningococcal disease because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.3 Bacteria can cause meningitis (meningitis) and blood poisoning (sepsis).4 Meningococcal disease rarely causes disease, but it can quickly become life-threatening and have serious consequential damage.3

Because of the non-specific and flu-like symptoms, meningococcal diseases are difficult to recognize initially, and therefore often diagnosed late.2 Miriam tested this on her own. Her daughter Hanna contracted meningococcal meningitis at the age of six months. Only the second pediatrician immediately sent Hanna to the nearest hospital with her symptoms. “The surrogate pediatrician sent us home earlier with information that she already had 20 children with the same symptoms today.” Little Hanna had to go to the intensive care unit right away. She survived – happily without any consequential damage. For her mom, this time of uncertainty and fear continues to be the motivation to talk about her experience and to enlighten other parents: “I wouldn’t wish for anyone to stand outside the ICU and worry about whether your child will make it. Therefore, other parents should know what options are available to protect children in the best possible way.

Many parents know of only one meningococcal vaccination

Three different meningococcal vaccines are available: group C, group B, and combined ACWY groups. The Standing Committee on Immunization (STIKO) recommends meningococcal C vaccination as standard for all children over 12 months of age.5 So many parents only know about this vaccination and don’t know that their child is not widely protected against meningococcus. More than 60% of meningococcal cases in Germany are due to group B, followed by Y and C.6 Possible additional vaccinations against groups B and ACWY are already reimbursed by many health insurance companies upon request.

Talk to your pediatrician as soon as possible

Pediatrician Dr.  Michael Horn

Pediatrician Dr. Michael Horn – Photo: © GlaxoSmithKline GmbH & Co. KG

The pediatrician, Dr. Michael Horn from Berchtesgaden is always relieved when young patients with flu-like symptoms have comprehensive protection from meningococcal vaccination in his practice. His biggest concern is that he might learn about the onset of meningococcal disease too late. Because in his early years as an ICU physician, Dr. Horn himself has the disease of a young child: “You do everything that is possible and despite modern medicine you lose it. Do not forget it for the rest of your life. So Horn informs parents at an early stage about possible additional vaccinations against meningococcus: “We have a chance to prevent serious infections such as meningococcal disease through vaccinations, and as a physician I am very grateful for that.”

Parents should talk to their pediatrician about the various meningococcal vaccinations and seek advice as soon as possible.

More information about reimbursement can be found at www.meningitis-bewegt.de.


NP-DE-MNX-PRSR-220001; 01/22

1 World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-immunization-week/2021/key-messages. Accessed January 2022.
2 Federation of Meningitis Organizations: https://bit.ly/3KvKA1U. Accessed January 2022.
3 Deutsches Grünes Kreuz: “Frequently asked questions and answers about meningococcal diseases.” Available under: https://bit.ly/2X7aroA. January 2022.
4 BZgA: “Mingococcus pathogens.” Available at: https://bit.ly/34WO5Zw. January 2022.
5 RKI: “Epidemiological Bulletin 34/2021.” Available at: https://bit.ly/3BdFx0k. January 2022.
6 RKI: SurvStat @ RKI 2.0, https://survstat.rki.de, Status: Epidemiological Yearbook 2019, Invasive meningococcaldiseases with serogroup determination according to the reference definition; obligation to report in accordance with the IFSG; 2019; March 2020.

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