The United Kingdom is set to introduce a vaccine that will protect against one of the deadly forms of meningitis.
This move was recommended to the government by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), although the committee stated a year ago that this vaccine was not cost-effective. Charities involved with meningitis welcomed the U-turn by the committee and said the decision has been based on more data becoming available.
Risks and Results
Approximately 1879 people contract the disease each year and of these around one in 10 dies. Babies under the age of 12 months are the ones who are most at risk of contracting meningitis B. The most vulnerable age is around five to six months.
Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that causes the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. The results of the disease generally leave at least one in four patients with severe life-altering effects, such as limb loss or brain damage.
The JCVI has stated that the vaccine has shown to be effective for preventing the disease and it should be rolled out on condition that it becomes available from the manufacturer at a price that is cost effective. The committee has recommended the addition of the vaccine to the current immunisation schedule, which starts at the age of two months for babies.
There are alternate vaccines against some of the other forms of meningitis, however, the Bexsero vaccine which was developed by Novartis, is the only one that may protect against the B strain of the disease.
Test results have indicated that the vaccine, which was licensed to be used in Europe during January 2013, is effective against around 73% of the various strains of this disease.
According to Professor John Watson, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, close interaction with Novartis during the coming months is on the cards. He is placing hope on successful negotiations which could lead to UK health departments introducing the vaccine against MenB as soon as possible.
If the introduction of the vaccine is successful, the UK will be the first country worldwide to implement a national vaccination programme.
The Meningitis Research Foundation are delighted with the outcome which could save lives and spare families the trauma of watching a loved one become disabled by the effects of meningitis B.