Infants to be offered Meningitis B vaccines from September
Guidance on vaccinating infants against meningitis B from September and students from August will be sent to GPs in England and Scotland. The announcement follows health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s deal with British vaccine manufacturer GSK in March in order to add MenB vaccine Bexsero to the childhood immunisation programme.
This will be the world’s first publicly funded vaccination programme for the potentially fatal disease. According to Meningitis Now, there are over 1,870 cases of meningitis B in the UK per year with it being common in children under the age of four and most frequently found in those under one years old. The development of a safe and effective meningitis B vaccine is the culmination of more than 20 years of research and represents a significant breakthrough in disease prevention. This is the first time that the vaccine has been made available free of charge.
The vaccine will be offered for babies starting at two months of age, followed by another dose at four months and a booster dose at 12 months. There will also be a limited catch-up programme for infants who are due their three- and four-month vaccinations in September. At the same time, GPs will invite new students to come in for the Men ACWY vaccine programme, which protects against four different types of meningitis, from August in England and Scotland. The vaccine is particularly important for older students because they are at the highest risk of infection because of close contact in shared accommodation, such as university halls of residence.
Chief executive of charity Meningitis Now, Sue David, said: ‘We’re delighted that yet another milestone in the journey to introduce these vaccines and protect our newborn babies and young people from the devastation meningitis causes has been reached – these measures will start to save lives straight away and for years to come.’