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Hope for new meningitis vaccine

Monday March 24th, 2014

The British government is hoping to vaccinate infants against one of the deadliest forms of meningitis, it has been announced.

Only one pharmaceutical company produces a vaccine and introduction will depend on successful talks about cost, government officials said.

Government advisers have recommended including the meningitis B vaccine in the childhood immunisation programme, leading to infants being protected at the age of two months.

Campaigners were hoping the cost negotiations would be a formality.

Campaigner Steve Dayman, who launched the first meningitis campaign 30 years ago after losing his child to the disease, said: "This is the news we’ve campaigned for, that the meningitis B vaccine is being introduced free for infants.

"This is the most monumental announcement in the fight against the disease in the 31 years I have campaigned to eradicate meningitis."

Professor Andrew Pollard, of Oxford University, who chairs the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said: "MenB disproportionately affects babies and young children and can be devastating.

"After very careful consideration, JCVI concluded that use of the new vaccine would reduce cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia and lead to a reduction in deaths, limb amputations and brain injury caused by the disease."

Deputy chief medical officer Professor John Watson said the disease killed about 10% of those it made ill.

He said: "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."

Tags: Child Health | NHS | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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