Lifesaving meningitis vaccination programme gets green light

Bexsero is the UK’s first lifesaving vaccine for Meningitis B – the most common form of bacterial meningitis in the UK – and will be free on the NHS for babies, subject to price negotiations.

Researchers in the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine, with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, have been responsible for developing the mathematical and economic models used by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to inform their recommendations on the use of Bexsero in the UK.  

These models have been used as a tool to help predict the number of cases averted under several potential introductory vaccination programmes and whether these programmes would be cost-effective.

Following independent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department of Health will work to introduce the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine into the childhood vaccination programme.

The JCVI, the Government’s vaccine experts, says evidence shows that the Bexsero vaccine is effective in preventing Meningitis B in infants and should be rolled out, subject to it being made available by the manufacturer at a cost-effective price.

The Department of Health will start negotiations with Novartis, which produces the only licensed vaccine, as soon as possible. The JCVI has recommended adding the vaccination to the primary childhood programme meaning that, if plans progress, infants will be immunised starting at two months of age.

The UK has one of the highest Meningitis B incidence rates in the world – affecting 600 to 1,400 people per year in England and Wales – and can kill in hours. Anyone can get the strain, with one in 10 people affected dying and one in three survivors suffering life-long after-effects. It kills more children under five than any other infectious disease in the UK.

The ground-breaking vaccine stands to save thousands of lives and many from life-changing after-effects such as limb loss, brain damage and epilepsy.

Bexsero is the first broadly protective Meningitis B vaccine and babies will need three doses. It was created using a new process ‘reverse vaccinology’ and will cover up to 88 per cent of strains.

The EU licensed Bexsero for use in Europe in January 2013 and has been available to buy privately since December costing up to £600.

You can read the full Department of Health press release here.

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