England will be the first country in the world to offer all newborn babies a meningitis B vaccine as part of its national immunisation programme.
From September, babies aged two months will be offered GlaxoSmithKline’s Bexsero, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months, after months of wrangling between the vaccine’s maker and health officials on its price came to an end earlier this year.
Bexsero was recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in March 2014, but negotiations on price only started in August, finally leading to an agreement in March this year. Campaigners slammed the lengthy process, claiming that lives could have been lost as a result of the delay to the jab’s widespread availability.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Jane Ellison also announced that to help combat the rise in meningitis W cases in adolescents, all 17 and 18-year-olds will receive a combined meningitis vaccine offering protection against A, C, W, Y strains of the bug from August.
The vaccine is particularly important for those who are heading off to university, as they are at greater risk, and thus will also be available to older students aged 19 to 25 who are starting university this year, the Department of Health confirmed.
Meningitis B chief executive Sue Davie said while the two new immunisations programmes are good news “we’re keen to ensure that people don’t take it to mean that meningitis is now beaten”.
“Our message is ‘Don’t become complacent about meningitis’ - there are still strains for which there is no vaccine available and there will still be people who are not protected by these vaccine programmes,” she stressed, adding that the charity will continue its Beat it Now! campaign to extend the availability of the Men B vaccine to other at-risk groups.