Vaccine To Prevent Meningitis B Gets Go-Ahead

Thomas Moore, Health and Science Correspondent
Vaccine To Prevent Meningitis B Gets Go-Ahead

A vaccine against one of the most common and deadly forms of meningitis has been licensed for use in the UK.

Bexsero is the first vaccine for meningitis B, which affects an average of 1,870 people in the UK each year.

One in 10 people with the disease will die. A further one in four will be left with permanent disability, such as brain damage or limb loss.

The European Commission has given the manufacturers Novartis a licence to sell the vaccine after considering its safety and effectiveness.

Department of Health vaccination experts will meet this summer to consider whether it should be included in the routine jabs given to babies and young children.

Charity Meningitis UK is launching a campaign calling for swift introduction of the vaccine on the NHS.

Steve Dayman, the charity's founder, said it was the biggest advance against meningitis since he lost his son to the disease 30 years ago.

"Any delay means lives will be lost," he said. "The last major meningitis vaccine took five years to be introduced. We cannot wait that long again. It will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering."

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will consider factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines already given to children.

The mother of meningitis victim Kadyn Busby, who died aged 10 months,  is one of those calling for the vaccine to be introduced quickly.

Nikki Busby said: "Meningitis absolutely shattered our lives within hours and has ever since.

"No parents should have to go through our ordeal. There is no need for a debate about it. The Government just needs to act."

Scientists have struggled to develop a vaccine against meningitis B. But Bexsero is effective against 73% of the strains in the UK.  Vaccine against the Hib, pneumococcal and C-strains are already given to babies.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Meningitis is a worry for many parents so we're pleased that a meningococcal B vaccine has now been licensed.

"Our independent group of vaccination experts, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, is currently looking at the use of this vaccine and will provide advice in due course."