The Independent has, for reasons which are quite unclear, given generous coverage to an organisation which seeks to turn back the clock on the prevention of meningitis. With a headline 'Teenager's death raises fear over meningitis jabs', and the claim that side-effects have called into question the safety of a nationwide campaign to protect 14 million under-18s against meningitis C, the story can only add to confusion and unwarranted fears among the paper's readers.
Where does the claim come from? It comes not from a recognised health department or research institution but from JABS, the single-interest, Brighton-based 'Justice, Awareness, Basic Support' group. This is a group which bases its case against all vaccinations solely on anecdotal stories. And even JABS' spokesperson, Isabella Thomas admits that there is no proof that that the MenC vaccine was responsible for any of the cases that they quote. She is quite happy, however, to encourage parents to believe that the injections are to blame, and says so.
The facts about the vaccination campaign are quite clear. MenC reduced the number or recorded cases of meningitis by 75% last year from the previous average of 3,000 and the clinical evidence indicates that side-effects of any kind, including very minor ones, occur in less than 1 in 2,500 cases. However, well publicised allegations about the vaccine's ill-effects can have a dramatic impact on the number of children receiving it. In Scotland, for example, following publicity surrounding one child who was hospitalised for 3 days following a jab, 20% of parents have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated.
Let us hope that the Independent has not added unwittingly to the number of young people who will die in the next few years because it prompted their parents to keep their children away from the immunisation programme.