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The importance of vaccinating children against meningitis and protecting adults from shingles

Consultant News

We sat down with Dr Eric Dan-Goor, leading General Practitioner at The Private GP Practice who talked us through why it is crucial for children to be vaccinated against meningitis and how one vaccine can protect adults from shingles.

Revealing all from what age a child can first be vaccinated, to how the vaccine works, what it targets and the benefits of this.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you currently practice?

I am an independent General Practitioner and I have been practising at The Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth for 20 years now in my own practice. I am a member of the Royal General Practice of Practitioners and a fellow of The Royal Society of Medicine.

I have a special interest in paediatric children’s healthcare, hence my interest in looking after babies and older children. The prevention of disease and vaccinations is something I have always had a vast interest in.

Dr Eric Dan-Goor
Dr Eric Dan-Goor, leading General Practitiioner at The Private GP Practice

Why is it important for children to have the Meningitis B vaccine?

There are various germs that can cause meningitis, it could either be viral or bacterial. The bacterial meningitis is what we are interested in because when it is present it’s particularly severe and very rapid in its progression. This means a child can develop meningitis and become ill very quickly within a matter of hours. Children can and easily become either incapacitated or die as a result of it.

It is important to state that meningitis is, generally speaking preventable. When we vaccinate a child it is always to some extent not 100% – but it is largely preventable. We’re vaccinating against the bacterium meningitis which is a more severe form of meningitis.

There are also various forms of bacteria that cause meningitis – one of them being meningitis B. Meningitis B is particularly virulent and now that we have a vaccine for it, we are vaccinating everybody including babies and teenagers, as five years ago we didn’t have a vaccine.

From what age should a child be vaccinated?

We are vaccinating babies starting at 2 months old. Teenagers from aged 12 onwards who have previously missed out on the meningitis B vaccination should also have the vaccine.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine targets a particular bacterium called meningococcal. Meningococcal comes in different strains, A,B,C,W and Y – we’re vaccinating against the B strain. The vaccine, known as Bexsero, works by introducing the antigenic component to the body and recognises it as a potentially hostile pathogen which causes antibodies to develop against it.
The vaccine needs to be given over the course of three occasions. This should present enough antibodies to remain in a child’s system until early adulthood.

How does the vaccination benefit a child?

The vaccine will confer protection against meningococcal B, the bacterium. This is very virulent when it causes meningitis B – a potential killer.

What can a child expect on the day?

The vaccine itself is fairly straightforward. It is an intramuscular injection, just like most other vaccines.

Are there any side effects?

Often there are no side effects experienced. Common side effects can include; fever, headache, aching and soreness. This may be present for a period of 24 hours. If this occurs it should be treated with paracetamol, which is quite effective.

Ensure your child is not allergic –an allergy is a possibility but this is extremely rare. Just like any vaccine you can have an allergy to it. Otherwise it is straightforward and simple.

What is the aftercare/follow up?

The vaccine needs to be given over three occasions.
The child will need to come back for their booster in two/three month’s time.

One vaccine is given followed by a booster then another booster, so typically there are three injections over the course of a period of time. The injection should boost the antibodies at such a high level that it protects children especially in their childhood. This will ensure there are enough antibodies present, which will remain in their system until early adulthood.

We advise parents to keep an eye on their children and report back if there are any problems. Otherwise they won’t need to be seen again.

Dr Dan-Goor also discusses why adults from aged 50 should consider protecting themselves from shingles.

Revealing who is most at risk of the infection, the symptoms and the common misconceptions.

What is shingles?

Shingles is an infection that causes a painful rash that is usually present on your chest and stomach, but can appear on your face, eyes and genitals.

Who is most at risk of developing shingles?

Although shingles is seen in the younger generation, it is more common in those aged 50 plus. This to due to as you get older, anyone who has a weak immune system and may be under stress, or ill for some reason is more at risk of the infection.

Are there any common misconceptions?

It is generally confused with chicken pox. Strictly speaking, you cannot get shingles if you haven’t had the chicken pox virus. Meaning, you needed to have the chicken pox infection in your early years before you can get shingles.

The cause of the infection is the reactivation of the chicken pox virus which resides in our nervous system. The virus is effectively ‘sleeping in our nerves’ and when it wakes up causes shingles.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine works by introducing the anti-gen (the component that the body recognises in the virus) which effectively builds up anti bodies. This then fights the ‘sleeping’ or ‘waking up’ virus and reduces its ability to cause problems.

Are there any side effects?

The most common side effects seen are the possibility of allergies along with local side effects such as; redness, possible fever, pain or swelling. Rarely there may be a few blisters. Otherwise it’s fairly straightforward.

What is the aftercare/follow up?

No follow up unless there are any problems. One vaccine is given after the age of 50.

What are the benefits of a patient coming to The Private GP Practice?

The National Health restricts the administration of shingles beyond an advanced age, meaning people in their 50,60s and 70’s miss out on having the vaccine because of NHS policy. Here at The Private GP Practice, we’re a centre of excellence based within The Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth and offer an exemplary service to patients. Patients receive a personal, one-to-one approach, ensuring that they are never left without cover and advice, 24 hours a day.

Make an appointment:

We have a team of six dedicated and leading General Practitioners including Dr Eric Dan-Goor available for appointments. For enquires and appointments please contact 020 7432 8269 or email privategp@hje.org.uk

Flexible appointment times are available

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