At a glance: Meningitis injections

What’s going on? Department of Health advisers want babies to have an injection to protect them against bacterial meningitis, which kills up to 100 under-fives in England and Wales each year.

Sounds sensible?

Yes, but after the MMR scare the Government has an ongoing comms challenge when it comes to jabs of all kinds, particularly for children and infants. Babies already get two jabs in their first four months to innoculate them against six diseases, and a third may be a hard sell.

Don’t problems always come in threes?

They certainly seem to in the area of vaccinations. The spectre of the MMR triple jab has not gone away. For example, the Daily Mail’s headline last week was ‘After MMR row parents face a headache over new triple jab’.

So MMR is still being used as shorthand for ‘controversy’?

Indeed it is – despite the fact that research carried out seven years ago, which suggested a link between the MMR triple jab and autism, has been widely discredited. Last month, parliamentary health select committee member Jim Dowd felt the need to berate journalists for their reporting of MMR. Describing Radio 5 Live as the ‘tabloid’ end of the BBC, he said the station ‘cannot report MMR without describing it as “the controversial MMR”’.

But not every journalist links the two?

Not in headlines perhaps, but MMR remains significant on the landscape when discussing vaccines. For example, The Daily Mirror’s report on the new jab said it ‘would guard against bacterial meningitis and fight septicaemia and pneumonia – but after the MMR row it is feared parents might shun it’.

So isn’t the comms answer a public education push?

Public consultation appears to be part of the strategy. A health department spokesperson said the idea of a ‘vaccine overload’ has been ‘looked at and dismissed’. But The Independent reported last week that officials, while agreeing the new vaccine in principle, ‘will consult parents before taking a final decision’.

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