England will become the first country in the world to protect babies against meningitis and septicaemia caused by the meningococcal B (MenB) bacteria from September, the Department of Health has confirmed.
The new MenB vaccination programme comes after a deal between the Government and the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline in March.
Teenagers at risk from meningococcal W (MenW) will benefit from a new MenACWY vaccine available to all 17 to 18-year-olds in England from August.
The Government’s vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), called for the new jab to be given to teenagers after cases of MenW in England rose from just 22 in 2009 to 117 in 2014.
All babies aged two months will be offered the MenB vaccine, with a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. Babies due their three- or four-month vaccinations in September can have a “catch-up programme” at a time when they are most at risk of MenB infection.
Teenagers in year 13 of school will be offered the combined MenACWY vaccine, as will students aged between 19 and 25. From spring 2016 there will be a school-based MenACWY vaccination programme to replace the existing MenC-only vaccine given to pupils in years 9 and 10.
Scotland and Wales are planning a MenB vaccination programme, and are likely to act on MenW, as well.
Meningitis, the infection and inflammation of the lining of the brain, and septicaemia, a kind of blood poisoning caused by meningococcal bacteria, predominately affect young children and teenagers, and can develop very quickly following symptoms that at first appear little different to mild flu – earning meningitis its reputation as the disease parents fear most.
MenB has been the leading cause of such infections in the UK for years, with an average of 1,761 cases a year, one in 10 of which is likely to be fatal.
Confirmation of the vaccination programme brings to an end years of campaigning by meningitis charities and patients, and is the result of months of negotiation between the Government and GSK over the price of the vaccine Bexsero.
The Department of Health declined to comment on the cost of the new vaccination programmes.
Professor Andrew Pollard, the chairman of the JCVI, said the new programmes were “a huge step forward in controlling childhood meningitis and septicaemia”.Reuse content