Lombardy first for meningococcal infections, ‘key information’

In Milan event open to the public ‘Let’s take care of meningitis: act today to protect tomorrow’

In the last three years Lombardy is the first for number of reported cases of meningococcal infections among all Italian regionsand, even if, as at the national level, there has been a decrease in recent years. In fact, it went from 38 cases in 2019 to 17 in 2020 and 8 in 2021, and also in this case the prevailing serotype was B, very dangerous in children. The importance of prevention through vaccination was discussed during the meeting “Pre-Take Meningitis: Act Today to Protect Tomorrow. Stories that help you chooseopen to the public, today in Milan at the Sala Medicinema of the Niguarda hospital in Milan and promoted by Adnkronos Comunicazione, with the unconditional support of Gsk.

“THEInforming and communicating with families and adolescents is an essential aspect for increasing citizens’ adherence to the vaccination offer envisaged by the NHS and the Lombardy Region – declares Piercarlo Salari, family pediatrician -. Pediatricians are widespread throughout the territory and provide fundamental information for the culture of prevention. Therefore, it is also our job to raise awareness and support undecided parents towards making an informed choice, just as it would be desirable to bring this theme to school as well, directly informing adolescents, through a suitable communication style, within their reach. The important thing is to deal with experts, avoiding letting parents and children be persuaded by untruthful news, taken from non-authoritative sources”.

Nationally, immunization coverage in 2021 was 80% for serogroup B vaccine, 73% for serogroup C, and 54% for serogroup A, C, W, Y vaccines. Higher rates to those recorded in 2020, in particular for the vaccine against serogroup B which stood at 66%.

“Lombardy is the Italian region with the highest vaccination coverage – says Catia Rosanna Borriello, head of the Infectious Diseases, Vaccinations and Prevention Performance Structure of the Welfare General Directorate of the Lombardy Region -. As regards the anti-meningococcal treatment against serogroup C (which involves the administration of a single dose) in children up to 2 years, there is a coverage of 94%, a little lower in adolescents (88%). For that against serogroup B, which we have been offering since 2017 to all 2-month-old infants and chronic patients at risk, in 2020 we achieved 93.5% coverage for the complete cycle (3 doses). The reason for such an important membership derives from two factors. Firstly, meningitis is a disease which, given its severity, is frightening. Then, because, since it’s not ‘mandatory’, it’s better accepted. In fact, parents are more willing to find out about the benefits deriving from this protection”.

“As regards the anti-meningococcal vaccination – continues Borriello – especially for newborns, the Covid 19 pandemic has not caused a drop in coverage. The case of adolescents is different, where, however, there has been a decrease. And this for two reasons: the first is that with the limitation of access to vaccination centers we had to give priority to newborns, subjects at risk and pregnant women, secondly, because a so-called ‘vaccine fatigue’ phenomenon occurred in the adolescent age group. For this reason, it is our task to help bring the vaccination coverage of adolescents back to the pre-pandemic period, as well as to reach chronic patients with targeted information, for whom it would be very important to have protection against meningitis, but who due to privacy issues we find it difficult to contact with direct messages”.

“Correct information is the most important thing. Especially to reach those who continue to have doubts, who often lack that extra data to face their fears”, says the lawyer Amelia Vitiello, president of the National Committee against Meningitis, founded after losing their 18-month-old first daughter. “When I tell my story to another mum or dad, I say that today I wouldn’t think twice about it. The Committee was born in 2007, to prevent other parents from going through our dramatic experience, and to make families aware of prevention On the other hand, there is still a lot of confusion between mandatory and recommended vaccines, considering the latter not essential, given that we are talking about a rare incidence of the disease. But it is not so much the number of cases that counts as their severity and relevance to the quality of the life in case of survival. Vaccinating is a right-duty for those who protect themselves and for the most fragile groups, since collective immunity is increased. Vaccinating is an act for oneself and for others. Therefore – is the appeal – the parents choose the opportunity offered by this prevention tool”.