In October 2022 a group of researchers from the University of Oxford reported the results of their study into the effects of the UK’s meningitis vaccination programme. The study, published in Clinical Microbiology and Infection, found that the vaccine “substantially reduced carriage of the W and y meningococcal groups, and sustained low levels of the C group”.  

The study 

Researchers took throat swabs to assess the prevalence of meningitis causing bacteria before and after the vaccination programme through two cross-sectional studies almost 4 years apart. These two studies were the UKMenCar4 study, from September 2014 to March 2015, and the Be on the TEAM study, from March 2018 to November 2018. In 2015, in response to rising meningitis rates, the UK updated its vaccine campaign with quadrivalent MenACWY vaccines. The programme also enrolled teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19, a group within which transmission is known to be highest.  

In total data from 24,062 students from 15-19 were included. The results revealed: 

  • C, W, and Y meningococcal carriage decreased from 2.03% to 0.71%; 
  • carriage of the W group decreased from 0.34% to 0.09%; 
  • carriage of the Y group decreased from 1.6% to 0.5%; and 
  • carriage of the C group remained rare (0.07% to 0.13%). 
Positive findings 

Professor Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group described the “fantastic enthusiasm of the UK public for taking part in research”.  

“The results show us that by immunising teenagers with MenACWY vaccines we not only protect them directly, but also reduce the risk of all others in the community suffering from meningitis and sepsis due to these bacteria.” 

He also highlighted the importance of immunising teenagers rather than infants, to “get more benefit out of each dose”. Professor Martin Maiden, lead author, believes that these studies have been “crucial” to the wider world applications of the vaccines.  

“This work helped to interrupt an epidemic that would likely have affected thousands of individuals.” 

Dr Tom Nutt is the chief executive of Meningitis Now, which contributed to the Be on the TEAM study. He warned that the “devastating disease can strike anyone at any time and leave havoc in its wake”. He hopes to “redouble our efforts” to encourage greater uptake of the free MenACWY vaccination. Dr Caroline Johnson, Public Health and Mental Health Minister, is glad that the programme allows young people to protect “themselves and in turn all age groups”.  

“Vaccination remains the best line of defence against infectious diseases”. 

We will hear from Professor Matthew Snape at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022. To join us get your tickets here.