Meningococcal Disease in the Post–COVID-19 Era: A Time to Prepare

David E. Bloom, Paolo Bonanni, Federico Martinón-Torres, Peter C. Richmond, Marco A.P. Safadi, David M. Salisbury, Apostolos Charos, Katharina Schley, Jamie Findlow, Paul Balmer

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)

Abstract

The global invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) landscape changed considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by decreased incidence rates due to COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as limited social contact, physical distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing. Vaccination rates were also lower during the pandemic relative to pre-pandemic levels. Although policymakers may have shifted their focus away from IMD vaccination programs to COVID-19 vaccination programs, strong arguments support implementation and prioritization of IMD vaccination programs; IMD cases have increased in some countries and IMD rates may even have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Additional concerns include increased susceptibility due to vaccination coverage gaps, increased incidence of other respiratory pathogens, immunity debt from lockdown restrictions, and increased IMD epidemiologic variability. The full range of benefits of widely available and effective meningococcal vaccines needs to be considered, especially in health technology assessments, where the broad benefits of these vaccines are neither accurately quantified nor captured in implementation policy decisions. Importantly, implementation of meningococcal vaccination programs in the current IMD climate also appeals to broader healthcare principles, including preparedness rather than reactive approaches, generally accepted benefit–risk approaches to vaccination, historical precedent, and the World Health Organization's goal of defeating meningitis by 2030. Countries should therefore act swiftly to bolster existing meningococcal vaccination strategies to provide broad coverage across age groups and serogroups given the recent increases in IMD incidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2649-2663
Number of pages15
JournalInfectious diseases and therapy
Volume12
Issue number12
Early online date4 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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