After 23-year-old estate agent dies from meningitis, do you need second dose of childhood vaccines?

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The tragic death of young estate agent Abigail Harris serves as a stark reminder about the vital role vaccination plays in protecting us from some of the most brutal illnesses. 

It was revealed last week that the 23-year-old, from Cheltenham, went to bed on March 27 suffering from ‘cold symptoms’ – and never regained consciousness. 

She had contracted deadly bacterial meningitis and hadn’t been vaccinated, as she didn’t know she was eligible.

It was revealed last week that Abigail Harris, 23, from Cheltenham, went to bed on March 27 suffering from ‘cold symptoms’ – and never regained consciousness

It was revealed last week that Abigail Harris, 23, from Cheltenham, went to bed on March 27 suffering from ‘cold symptoms’ – and never regained consciousness

Abigail had contracted deadly bacterial meningitis and hadn’t been vaccinated, as she didn’t know she was eligible

Experts say it is never too late to have a jab: even if you aren’t sure whether you’ve had a specific vaccination, there is no evidence that having another dose is harmful (Abigail Harris is pictured)

Abigail had contracted deadly bacterial meningitis and hadn’t been vaccinated, as she didn’t know she was eligible

Experts say it is never too late to have a jab: even if you aren’t sure whether you’ve had a specific vaccination, there is no evidence that having another dose is harmful.

In fact, the immunity provided by many vaccines actually wanes over time, so an extra dose may offer you an important boost.

THE SIX-IN-ONE JAB

PROTECTS AGAINST

Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B – all infectious diseases that can cause severe illness, disability and death.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

To children at eight, 12 and 16 weeks.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Protection against diphtheria, a highly contagious and potentially fatal infection of the nose, throat and skin, lasts ten years. Boosters in adults are only recommended if travelling to affected areas, and for those working in healthcare settings. 

The jab also offers immunity from tetanus, a serious wound infection, for around 25 years in three-quarters of cases, and from polio for at least 18 years. 

Boosters would only be needed if travelling abroad to affected areas – there were only four cases of tetanus in the UK in 2016, and no polio cases since the 1980s.

The whooping cough component, also given separately to pregnant women, protects for four to six years, and Hib for up to three and a half years – but neither is necessary in adults as the condition rarely causes serious problems.

THE STOMACH BUG JAB

PROTECTS AGAINST

Rotavirus gastroenteritis, a serious vital stomach infection which can cause dehydration and fever in young children.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

Two doses, given at eight and 12 weeks, offer several years of protection while children are at their most vulnerable.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Older children and adults develop natural immunity and are not as badly affected.

Two doses of the stomach bug jab (stock image) are given at eight and 12 weeks. They offer several years of protection while children are at their most vulnerable

Two doses of the stomach bug jab (stock image) are given at eight and 12 weeks. They offer several years of protection while children are at their most vulnerable

THE JABS OFFERED TO HIGH RISK GROUPS 

TUBERCULOSIS

The BCG vaccine, which protects against tuberculosis, used to be part of the childhood vaccination schedule. But since 2005, it has only been given to at-risk groups because TB rates are now so low. The jab protects 80 per cent of people for around 18 years.

CHICKENPOX

Protects against the varicella-zoster virus which causes chickenpox. It is not routinely offered on the NHS because the infection is usually mild and almost all children develop immunity after being infected.

It is offered to healthcare workers and people who are in close contact with someone particularly vulnerable to the virus. It is said to provide lifetime immunity to 90 per cent of children.

HOLIDAY VACCINES

Most jabs involve protection against bacterial infections which are no longer common in the UK. None are available on the NHS but can be paid for privately if travelling to a region where the disease is active.

Only yellow fever is thought to offer lifelong protection – others, such as water-borne cholera, require regular booster doses.

Tick-borne encephalitis and typhoid should be topped up every three years if travelling to affected areas.

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The vaccines against liver infections hepatitis A and B will generally offer longer-term protection of up to 20 years.

THE PNEUMONIA VACCINE

PROTECTS AGAINST

Pneumococcal infection, caused by the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which can lead to diseases including fatal pneumonia.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

At eight and 16 weeks, and again at 12 months. A different form of the vaccine, PPV, is offered as a one-off dose to adults over 65 and those with long-term health conditions.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Some people, such as those with sickle cell anaemia or kidney disease, may need a jab every five years for added protection.

MMR TRIPLE SHOT

PROTECTS AGAINST

MMR protects against measles, mumps and rubella, infectious diseases that can cause serious illness, disability and death.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

Two doses at 12 months and after children turn three years and four months old.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

The mumps component is known to wane over time but gives protection for more than ten years in most cases. Measles protection is considered lifelong in over 96 per cent of cases, and rubella protects 90 per cent of people for up to 20 years.

There is currently only data from the early 1980s, when the MMR was first introduced in Scandinavia, but experts say there is no firm evidence that immunity has waned significantly. However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that revaccinating students who had already had the MMR during a mumps outbreak reduced infections by half.

THE FLU JAB

PROTECTS AGAINST

Various strains of the flu virus.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

Offered every winter to the most vulnerable, including adults over 65, pregnant women, those with underlying medical conditions and children aged two to ten.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Its effectiveness is known to wane quickly, although it may offer protection for a couple of years.

The flu jab is offered every winter to the most vulnerable, including adults over 65 and pregnant women

The flu jab is offered every winter to the most vulnerable, including adults over 65 and pregnant women

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MENINGITIS JABS

PROTECTS AGAINST

The meningococcal group of viruses which can cause potentially fatal meningitis and septicaemia blood poisoning.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

Men B and Men C are given to infants. However, a separate vaccination – against strains A, C, W and Y – is offered to young adults aged 14 to 25 because of a tenfold rise in the highly virulent Men W since 2009.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Type B and C mainly affect young children, so revaccination later is not necessary. ACWY is a recent vaccine, so the length of immunity offered is not yet known.

THE CANCER JAB

PROTECTS AGAINST

Several strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes more than 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases. HPV is also linked to anal, genital and neck cancers.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

Two doses, six to 24 months apart, are given to all girls aged 12 to 13. Boys will be vaccinated from September. Men under the age of 45 who sleep with other men can have free jabs at any time at sexual health clinics. Anyone can have the jabs privately at some high-street pharmacists.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

It is effective for at least ten years, although experts believe protection could last even longer.

SHINGLES JAB

PROTECTS AGAINST

Shingles, an infection of the nerves and skin that causes painful lesions, kills one in every 1,000 elderly sufferers. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.

WHEN IS IT GIVEN?

Offered to everyone at 70 and 78 who doesn’t have a weakened immune system or is taking steroid tablets. It is not safe for anyone who has had an allergic reaction to a previous chickenpox vaccination. Those who miss out remain eligible until their 80th birthday.

HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?

Protection lasts at least five years, but one study found that it was ineffective after eight years.



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