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MenB vaccine added to immunisation programme

The childhood vaccination programme is being expanded to introduce the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine. 

Following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government has decided to add the vaccination to the primary childhood programme. 

This would mean infants would be immunised starting at two months of age. 

Novartis produces the only licensed vaccine, Bexsero. Following negotiations to ensure the vaccine is produced at a cost-effective price, the scheme will be rolled out. 

Deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson said: “Infants under one year of age are most at risk of MenB and the number of cases peak at around five or six months of age.  With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most make a full recovery. But it is fatal in about one in ten cases and can lead to long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

“We will now be working closely with Novartis in the coming months and if negotiations are successful, we hope to work with the other UK health departments to introduce a vaccine to prevent MenB as quickly as possible. This would make the UK the first country in the world to implement a nationwide vaccination programme.”

Christopher Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: “We are delighted that the JCVI have recommended vaccinating all babies against this most feared and deadly disease.

“It's a wonderful outcome which will save lives and spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one seriously disabled by the devastating after effects of MenB.  We pay tribute to the people who have suffered from this illness, whose bitter experience has helped demonstrate the compelling case for prevention.”

Royal College of General Practitioners chair, Dr Maureen Baker, said: "Worried parents and doctors will breathe a huge sigh of relief at today's announcement. Meningitis and meningococcal infection is a dreadful disease and its consequences can be devastating.

"This vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives, primarily children, and GPs will play a major role in promoting the new immunisation programme to parents and in ensuring a successful rollout.

"The college has been very vocal in the campaign to introduce the vaccine and we are pleased that our advice, together with other expert input, has been heeded."