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Meningitis B vaccine to be given green light 'in weeks'

The first meningitis B vaccine is set to be approved in the UK “within weeks”.

In what has been hailed as a “giant leap forward” in the fight against the disease, Bexsero (4CMenB) vaccine - developed by pharmaceutical company Novartis - has received a “positive opinion” verdict from the European Medicines Agency (EMA),

This verdict means the vaccine, which is recommended for individuals aged two months and older, is considered safe and effective.

In the UK, meningitis B is the most common form of the disease affecting an average of 1,870 people each year, with one in ten dying from the disease.

Around one in four people are also left with life-changing after-effects after contracting the disease, such as brain damage and limb loss.

It is estimated the new vaccine could save thousands of lives, especially among children under five, who are most at risk from the disease.

It is said that 99% of such “positive opinions” lead to a licence for use and it is expected that 4CMenB should receive its UK licence in early 2013.

National charity Meningitis UK hopes the vaccine will be introduced into the government's routine immunisation schedule “as soon as possible”.

“This is a landmark moment in the fight against meningitis - I have waited three decades to hear this,” said Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman MBE.

“It is vital that the vaccine is introduced in the UK immunisation schedule as soon as possible.  It will save countless lives and prevent many people enduring the suffering caused by this devastating disease.

“We will be campaigning hard to make the Government introduce it.”

The decision on whether to introduce the vaccine in to the immunisation schedule will be made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), after taking into consideration the price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines in the schedule.

Dr Myron Christodoulides, chairman of Meningitis UK's scientific advisory panel and reader in molecular bacteriology at the University of Southampton, warned that while 4CMenB has been shown to “potentially protect” immune responses in infants and adolescents, the vaccine may not provide complete coverage of the meningitis B strains in the population and urged more research in this area.