UK & World News
Meningitis B Vaccine Set To Be Approved
A lifesaving meningitis B vaccine is set to be licensed for use in the UK in a move that could save thousands of lives.
The disease, which is the most common and deadliest form of meningitis in the country, affects some 1,870 people each year, many of them children, and results in death for one in 10 sufferers.
The approval of the new 4CMenB vaccine, which has been developed by pharmaceutical company Novartis, has been hailed by the charity Meningitis UK as the "biggest leap forward in the field" in three decades.
The vaccine received a "positive opinion" verdict from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Friday, meaning that the vaccine is considered safe and effective.
It will be the first meningitis B vaccine approved for use in the UK, which has one of the highest incidence rates in the world.
One in four sufferers is left with life changing after-effects, such as brain damage and limb loss, with children under five most at risk from the disease.
The charity said the next stage will be to give the vaccine - which has the trade name Bexsero - a marketing licence. It is expected to receive its UK licence early next year.
Meningitis UK wants the vaccine to be introduced into the Government's routine immunisation schedule as soon as possible, so it will be automatically given to children. The jab is recommended for those aged two months and older.
Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman, who lost his baby son to meningitis and septicaemia in 1982, said: "This is a landmark moment in the fight against meningitis - I have waited three decades to hear this.
"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 to the immunisation schedule will be made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who advise the Government on vaccination.
There are a large number of meningitis B strains in the UK - more than in many other countries - which makes producing a vaccine very difficult. Meningitis B accounts for about 90% of cases in the UK.
The new vaccine is described as a real breakthrough as studies have shown it should protect against 73% of strains which cause the disease in the UK.
Scientists have been attempting to develop a broad-ranging Meningitis B vaccine for years and have used a revolutionary new approach called reverse vaccinology to create it.
This involved sequencing the genome of the bacteria and identifying proteins that provoke an immune response against a broad range of strains.