PLANS to introduce the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine into the childhood vaccination programme in England have been announced by the Department of Health.
Evidence accessed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) indicates that the Bexsero vaccine is effective in preventing MenB in infants and the Government now plans to roll out the vaccine subject to it being made available by the manufacturer at a cost-effective price.
The JCVI has recommended adding the vaccination to the primary childhood programme meaning that, if plans progress, infants will be immunised starting at two months of age.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Watson said: "Infants under one year of age are most at risk of MenB and the number of cases peak at around five or six months of age. With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most make a full recovery. But it is fatal in about one in ten cases and can lead to long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.
"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."
The Scottish Government also welcomed the JCVI announcement and confirmed its commitment to the programme.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: "I’m delighted that the JCVI has identified the importance of introducing this vaccine against Meningitis B.
"This disease can be devastating for children and their families, and I’m very keen that we take the necessary steps to tackle its effects. We will be working to ensure that this vaccine can be introduced as quickly as possible into Scotland’s routine childhood immunisation schedule."