Meningitis alarm: new cases and vaccines are missing

Meningitis alarm: new cases and vaccines are missing

Two new cases in Florence and Prato. It has been a spike in meningitis cases since last year, mostly from the C strain

Vaccinations, what is their importance

Two new hospitalizations for meningitis in Tuscany, which has counted ten since the beginning of the year, with two patients dead. The latest victims were a 22-year-old American woman, with a prognosis reserved for the Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Florence, and a 71-year-old in intensive care at the Prato hospital. A repetition of cases that has once again triggered a boom in requests for vaccinations. "For the moment there are vaccines" guarantees the regional councilor for the right to health Stefania Saccardi.

Since last year, the region has recorded a surge in meningitis cases, mostly of the C strain. And since April the Region has launched an extraordinary vaccination campaign against meningococcus C for people between 20 and 45 years – 229,373 those vaccinated at December 31, 2015 -, which for some days has also been extended to Livorno and Siena, the only provinces where there have been no infections. After the alarm generated by the latest cases, the average waiting time to be vaccinated, at the beginning of about 7 days, is between 20 days and a month. Even the over 45s can get vaccinated in the Asl clinics, but they have to pay the 58 euro ticket.

This age group includes the two people who died in 2016, both from type C meningococcus: a 58 year old from Fucecchio (Florence) who died on January 26 and a 65 year old woman who died on January 31 at the hospital of Pescia (Pistoia) . In 2015, approximately 400,000 doses of the vaccine were distributed, also sent from abroad and recovering the stocks present in other regions. About 50,000 doses distributed only in January 2016. The vaccination campaign has so far cost the Region about 10 million euros. "Ministry and Aifa have guaranteed us the widest collaboration – affirms Councilor Saccardi – and I have had the insurance from the minister that financial assistance will also arrive soon".

Region and Higher Institute of Health are working to understand why type C meningococcus, responsible for 8 of the 10 cases that occurred in 2016, affects so much in Tuscany and in particular in the territory along the Arno river valley. Of the 38 cases recorded in 2015, 31 are due to strain C. In mid-February two epidemiological investigations decided by the regional commission for vaccination strategies will start. In the meantime, antibiotic prophylaxis has already started for people who may have come into contact with the 22-year-old American woman hospitalized in Florence and with the elderly person from Prato. In the midst of the meningitis emergency, the unions announced that "following the transfer by Novartis to Gsk of the activities carried out in Siena and Rosia, the new multinational has decided not to keep the Development department within its production perimeter »Of the only industry in Italy« to have the whole process of manufacturing vaccines against meningitis within it ».

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