No universal vaccine

THE World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no universal vaccine that protects a person against all the strains of the meningococcal bacteria that can cause the disease.

Following the outbreak of the life-threatening disease in Fiji on Tuesday, WHO said there were only two types of conjugate meningococcal vaccines available protecting against Serogroup C and quadrivalent meningococcal vaccines that provided protection against Serogroups A, C, Y, W-135 — the various forms of the disease.

Responding to questions from this newspaper on the medicines available to cure the disease, WHO said both types of vaccine offered higher levels of protection to a person.

“Both types of vaccine offer high levels of protection. Serogroup C conjugate vaccine has been used very successfully in a number of countries to prevent and control outbreaks.”

The organisation said polysaccharide vaccines could also be used for meningococcal C, however, these vaccines offered three years of protection and were not appropriate for children under two years of age.

WHO also confirmed there were different vaccines for the different meningococcal serogroups (a group of serotypes with similar but distinguishable serological reactions).

It said that vaccines could only be used to prevent a person from getting the meningococcal disease.

“Vaccines can also be used to prevent a person getting meningococcal disease, however, there is no universal vaccine that protects against all the strains of the meningococcal bacteria that can cause the disease.

“There are different vaccines for the different meningococcal serogroups. Vaccines are used for prevention only, not treatment,” the UN’s international public health organisation said.

“If a person gets meningococcal disease, it is critical that the person urgently receives appropriate medical treatment, including antibiotics.

“There are a range of antibiotics that can treat the meningococcal infection. For Fiji, these are listed in the Fiji national meningococcal disease clinical management guidelines.”

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