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Meningitis B jab gets European licence

Charity urges the government to get Bexsero into the routine vaccination schedule
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

23rd January 2013 - A vaccine against meningitis B - one of the deadliest forms of the disease - has become the first to be licenced for use in Europe.

Now charities and families affected by meningitis are pressing the government to introduce Bexsero, into the routine vaccination schedule without delay. Meningitis UK says it could save thousands of lives.

Meningitis B is the most common form of meningitis in the UK, affecting an average of 1,870 people each year, including children under five who are most at risk from the disease. One in 10 people who contract meningitis B die from it and one in four are left with severe after affects such as brain damage or limb loss.

The UK has one of the highest incidence rates of meningitis B in the world.

UK marketing licence

Bexsero, developed by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, is the first vaccine against meningococcal B meningitis to receive a marketing licence for use in the UK.

Experts say it should protect against 73% of the different strains of meningitis B.

A Department of Health spokesperson tells us by email: "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 (JCVI), is currently looking at the use of this vaccine and will provide advice in due course.

It is understood that the committee will consider the evidence in the summer.

Routine vaccination schedule

The charity Meningitis UK is urging the government to act swiftly so that it is available as part of the routine schedule of jabs given to children on the NHS. It says the last major vaccine against a form of meningitis - the pneumococcal vaccine - took five years to be introduced into the programme.

Meningitis UK Founder Steve Dayman MBE, who lost his 14 month old son Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia, says in a statement: "This ground-breaking vaccine is the most important development since I lost my son to meningitis 30 years ago.

"The Government must introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the immunisation schedule as soon as possible - it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering. Any delay means lives will be lost."

Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust, is also urging the government to make a "positive and quick recommendation" to have the new vaccine introduced into the immunisation programme.

She adds in an emailed statement: "As with any announcement about meningitis vaccines, we are determined to ensure that people do not become complacent and wrongly believe that they are protected against all strains of meningitis. This is unfortunately not the case. And, as a support-focused organisation, our commitment is to the victims of meningitis and their families, now and in the future.

"We see first-hand the devastation that the disease causes and although any vaccine to help protect this suffering is wholeheartedly supported by us, we will never forget the people who have already fallen victim and need us to continue their fight."

Reviewed on January 23, 2013

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