All UK Babies to Get MenB Vaccine!
Almost exactly a year ago, we told you how a meningitis B vaccine was on its way for babies in the UK. And now, we can happily announce that a deal has been struck and all infants under the age of two months will have access to the vaccine from later this year.
There has been something of a delay, which was mainly caused by the cost of the drug, called Bexsero.
As we told you last year, Bexsero was created by drugs manufacturer Novartis. But a deal was only able to be struck after GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) acquired the vaccine, resulting in the cost becoming more affordable for the government to negotiate with.
But now an agreement has been reached, and the vaccine will be added to the national childhood immunisation programme, along with the likes of the polio, tetanus, MMR and meningitis C vaccines.
“I am very proud that we will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme, helping protect our children from a devastating disease,” declared Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Babies will receive their first shot at two months old, and a further two later on. Although babies over four months old at the time the vaccine is introduced won’t be eligible for the shot, those who are three-to-four months old will still be able to get it. There is some discussion about also introducing the vaccinations to young teenagers, but that won’t be for some time yet.
There are almost 2,000 cases of MenB in the UK every year, mostly affecting infants under the age of one, children under five, and teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19. You can find out more about meningitis and the vaccine on the NHS Choices website, here.
Mr Hunt said that while he was disappointed that a deal took so long to be worked out, it was important to follow scientific advisors’ guidance on vaccines and costs. This is because the NHS is unable to afford every single medication and new vaccine.
He explained that completion of the deal meant that the vaccine could go ahead this year, “and I think that is something that families… will really welcome.”
More than 80% of MenB cases are predicted to be covered by the vaccine, as well as a more virulent strain increasingly found in the UK.
Chris Head, Chief Executive of charity Meningitis Research Foundation, said that MenB had been at the top of the charity’s agenda for decades and that it was delighted that a vaccination was in sight.
He explained that introducing the vaccine will not only save lives, but spare families of the trauma of seeing their loved ones die or become seriously ill because of the disease.
“We pay tribute to all those who have been personally affected by the disease,” he added, “and to all the scientists and health professionals involved in the creation of the vaccine.”
The deal has been made on behalf of the UK, so the children in Wales, Scotland and Ireland will also be benefitting from the new vaccine.
A spokesperson said that the Welsh government was “committed to being included in the UK-wide procurement for the vaccine” and that it would be available in Wales as soon as was “practicable”.
Shone Robison, Scotland’s Health Secretary, also said that the vaccine would be available to infants as soon as possible.
And finally, Jim Wellis, Health Minister for Northern Ireland, welcomed the deal. He said that he trusted the negotiations “to secure an effective, safe, and cost-effective vaccine.”