Meningitis jab model 'could lead to national rollout'

Meningitis jab model 'could lead to national rollout'

A model being tested in London that sees 18 to 25-year-olds given a free meningitis vaccination could pave the way for similar schemes across the UK, one expert has said.

NHS England launched the initiative at the start of September and it has involved 2,000 pharmacists being trained in delivering the meningitis jab at chemists across the capital.

Rekha Shah is leader of pharmacy vaccination services for London's local pharmaceutical committees and she told Chemist+Druggist magazine pharmacists are well-placed to provide such vaccines because they are easily accessible.

In addition, she pointed out, younger people are more likely to visit a pharmacist than they would be to bother making an appointment with a GP, meaning there is greater potential for better uptake.

The vaccination is free, which is another plus point for the scheme when targeting a demographic that does not have a significant level of disposable income.

Ms Shah said she believes that if the pilot is a success in the capital, it could be commissioned nationally.

"If we do 10,000 [vaccinations] I'll have a big smile right across my face. If we go above that I'll be singing," she added.

The vaccine is being offered free for London residents aged 18 to 25 as an enhanced service, in a similar fashion to the flu and pneumonia jabs. Pharmacies will be reimbursed the cost of the medicine from the NHS, as well as being paid £9.80 for every vaccination they deliver.

It protects against invasive meningococcal group W, a particularly deadly form of the disease, as well as three other strains.

At present, all 14-year-olds are given the MenACWY jab at school as part of a programme implemented in 2015 by Public Health England, while 17 and 18-year-olds are also eligible for a free vaccination from their GPs.

However, health officials are becoming concerned about a rise in cases of Meningitis W, particularly in university students who missed the vaccines in schools. Indeed, there were 805 cases of this strain in 2015-16, compared to 724 the year before.

The Royal College of Nursing has also warned that only a third of school-leavers took up the offer of a free vaccine last year.

It is hoped that rolling out a pharmacy-based vaccination programme could prevent any further deaths from the disease, but also reduce the strain's seasonal peaks. If rolled out UK-wide, it may significantly reduce cases of the disease.