Teenagers Asked to Join Meningitis B Vaccine Study

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Wednesday 28th March 2018

Teenagers in the UK are currently being asked to get involved in a trial involving immunising against meningitis B, in order to see if this will protect not only themselves but other people.

The Be On The Team Trial, backed by Oxford Vaccine Group and funded in part by the National Institute for Health Research, is hoping for 24,000 teens to take part in the trial, and the NHS is hoping that they will get involved in the name of medical progress. Over the next two years there will be four waves of people being signed up to the study.

The study is looking at bacteria that is found in the back of the throat. It is known to be a cause of meningitis and the trial is looking into whether vaccination can stop the build-up of bacteria in the back of the throat.

The participants are 16-17, or Year 12 in the UK or the equivalent school year in Wales and Scotland. The teens will be divided into three groups and will be placed into a group of 8000 participants. They will receive one of two vaccine doses. One group will operate for 18 months as a control group, whilst the other two will take part for a year, recruiting in two periods a year, between March to April, and September to October.

According to Dr Matthew Snape of the Oxford Vaccine Group, the peak time for carrying the meningitis B bacteria is from being a teenager until a young adult, with university students in particular being major carriers, and so the purpose of this study is to see whether a nationwide immunisation campaign wouldn’t just help protect teenagers but the community at large.

The wider study comes in the wake of the tragic death of Fay Burdett in 2016, with petitions being launched to immunise all children against meningitis B, although those calls were rejected for not being “cost-effective” in a report that was released two years late.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord, which is the source of many of the common symptoms of the disease, such as a stiff neck, fever and seizures. Other common symptoms include a lack of appetite and vomiting, drowsiness and unresponsiveness, rapid breathing, pale blotches, spots and rashes, an aversion to bright lights and a tense bulging soft spot.

Whilst meningitis has a number of possible causes, meningitis B in particular is caused by a bacterial infection, which leads to the risk of spreading and can cause incredibly serious illness in children, with an overall fatality rate of 1 in ten. A quarter of survivors end up with complications, from deafness, epilepsy, learning difficulties and amputation. Speedy treatment is critical, and so if these symptoms are seen in a child or you have concerns, it is advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible.