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Stiko recommends meningococcal B vaccination for infants – Health

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Stiko recommends meningococcal B vaccination for infants – Health

The Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) has heard the calls of many pediatricians. From now on, it recommends vaccination against meningococcal B (MenB) for all infants from the age of two months. “Overall, invasive MenB diseases occur very rarely, but the course of the disease is very serious,” the experts explained their decision. The risk of illness is highest in the first year of life, which is why early vaccination is important. “Vaccination for small children is justifiable,” says Rüdiger von Kries, member of the Stiko Meningococcal B working group. Vaccination reactions such as fever can be easily controlled with paracetamol.

According to the current recommendation, infants should receive three doses of vaccine at the ages of two, four and twelve months. For small children, the recommendation calls for a catch-up vaccination up to their fifth birthday. Meningococci are bacteria that are grouped together after building their shell. In Germany, children are already vaccinated against serogroup C as standard, but not against B. That is now set to change. “We also wanted to end the somewhat unsatisfactory situation that some health insurance companies cover vaccination as a special service, while others do not. Now all children have the opportunity to get a vaccination,” says von Kries.

The vaccination calendar for children is very tight in the first years of life

This positive view of a general vaccination recommendation is new; the Stiko argued against it for a long time. It was said that the vaccination calendar for children in the first years of life was very tight. Experts fear that some parents will simply skip additional vaccination appointments. In addition, the incidence rate is fortunately small – too small for a comprehensive recommendation. “The benefits of vaccination are there, but they are quantitatively rather small,” says von Kries. “It was therefore a laborious discussion within the Stiko – also because the vaccination does not protect 100 percent against the disease and does not build herd protection, i.e. protects other, unvaccinated children.”

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In fact, tens of thousands of children would have to be vaccinated to prevent a single severe case of meningococcal B. The most current figures are for 2020, when 138 infections were detected across Germany, most of them in group B. 16 cases were fatal, most of them children. Last year there were 29 deaths. Experts attribute the massive decline to the Covid protective measures. “We don’t know whether the number of illnesses will rise again above pre-Covid levels,” says von Kries. This is possible without vaccination. “But with the vaccination we hope to prevent that, and that’s a good thing.”

Regardless of these numbers, many pediatricians have been warning for years that an infection with group B can also lead to severe and sometimes fatal illnesses, such as severe meningitis. That’s why many experts see it as urgent to have all children vaccinated. Stiko now follows this argument. Vaccination against meningococcal B has been on the vaccination schedule for some time in neighboring European countries, for example in Great Britain.

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