RIVM research shows that the vaccine against meningococci protects against all pathogenic forms of the meningococcus bacteria (types W, C and Y). This vaccine has been being given as standard to toddlers and teenagers since 2018 due to an outbreak of meningococcus W in the Netherlands in 2017-2018.
Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria. There are several types of these bacteria. The disease can lead to meningitis and septicaemia. Sometimes with serious consequences, such as amputation of limbs or even death.
Research into meningococcus W bacteria
RIVM conducted research into the meningococcus W bacteria. What was striking about the type W outbreak was that people were falling ill with particular strains of meningococcus W. These strains can be identified from their genetic information. RIVM looked at why people fall seriously ill from these strains and not from others.
Protected against pathogenic meningococcus bacteria through vaccination
Without being vaccinated, most people will have few or no antibodies to help kill these bacteria. Consequently, the bacteria will stay alive for longer and can cause severe disease. Vaccinated people did have antibodies to fight the bacteria. This boosts their immune system’s capacity to kill the bacteria, allowing it to kill all forms of the meningococcus bacteria that cause severe disease. The young people still had a good level of protection five years after vaccination.
The vaccine also proved to work very well against other tested types of meningococcus bacteria that cause severe disease. Knowing how the vaccine works will aid our capacity to fight any other types that emerge in the future. The knowledge will also aid our capacity to protect people with compromised immunity.
National Immunisation Programme
Toddlers older than 14 months and teenagers over the age of 14 are being offered a vaccination against meningococcus bacteria types A, C, W and Y through the National Immunisation Programme. The aim being to prevent severe meningococcal disease. This vaccine was added to the programme in 2018 following an outbreak of meningococcus W in the Netherlands in 2017-2018. Prior to that, children were only vaccinated against type C. The vaccinations are free and are not compulsory.