Public Health England (PHE) welcomes the announcement from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to recommend the inclusion of a new vaccine against Group B meningococcal disease (Meningitis B) to the routine childhood immunisation schedule.
The JCVI published its recommendation today (21 March 2014) after concluding that evidence submitted to the committee has shown that the Bexsero® vaccine would be effective, and could represent good value for money within the NHS if it was made available at a low price.
Meningitis B predominantly affects babies and young children and is fatal in about one in 10 cases. With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment most make a full recovery but about 1 in 8 cases experience long-term health problems such as deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties and some require amputations. The JCVI agreed that introduction of a vaccination programme would reduce the risk of these complications from severe disease.
The JCVI recommendation is to immunise babies at 2, 4 and 12 months.
Professor Andrew Pollard, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford said:
MenB disproportionately affects babies and young children and can be devastating. After very careful consideration, JCVI concluded that use of the new vaccine could reduce cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia and lead to a reduction in deaths, limb amputations and brain injury caused by the disease. Today the JCVI published its recommendation to the UK health departments that if the new vaccine can be purchased at a low price and is therefore cost effective for the NHS, it should be used in the routine immunisation programme for babies in the UK to prevent disease.
Routine use of the MenB vaccine is expected to make an important contribution to the health of our population.
Dr Paul Cosford, PHE Director of Health Protection and Medical Director, said:
We welcome the recommendation from the JCVI and subsequent announcement from the Department of Health that they wish to roll out the new MenB vaccine to babies in England to protect them against this serious disease. The UK has an excellent routine immunisation programme which protects children and babies from diseases that only a few decades ago were fatal. We look forward to working closely with our colleagues in the NHS and the Department of Health to implement the recommendation of the JCVI, and ultimately to seeing a reduction in the numbers of cases and tragic deaths from Meningitis B.
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health response to the announcement:
In response to today's announcement that the meningitis B vaccination is set to be made available free on the NHS to infants, Dr David Elliman, immunisation expert at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
"The JCVI has recommended the introduction of the meningococcal vaccine for routine use in infants, if it can be obtained at a price that is cost-effective. If this condition can be met, which we hope will happen soon, the decision will be universally welcomed. Children's lives will be saved and some children will be spared severe preventable disability."
Dr Helen Bedford, Senior Lecturer in Children's Health at University College London Institute of Child Health, added:
"Meningococcal B disease is very serious and can result in death or serious long term disability. Clearly its prevention is highly desirable and would be welcomed by parents and health professionals alike."
The Royal College of General Practitioners response to the announcement:
New vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives - RCGP welcomes meningitis decision.
Responding to the Department of Health's announcement that the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine will be introduced into the childhood vaccination programme.
RCGP Chair, Dr Maureen Baker, said: "Worried parents and doctors will breathe a huge sigh of relief at today's announcement. Meningitis and meningococcal infection is a dreadful disease and its consequences can be devastating.
"This vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives, primarily children, and GPs will play a major role in promoting the new immunisation programme to parents and in ensuring a successful rollout.
"The College has been very vocal in the campaign to introduce the vaccine and we are pleased that our advice, together with other expert input, has been heeded."
Meningitis Research Foundation response to the announcement:
International charity Meningitis Research Foundation which, this year, marks 25 years of ground breaking research and campaigning, is celebrating today's news that a life saving vaccine has been recommended for introduction into the NHS immunisation schedule.
MenB is the leading cause of life-threatening meningitis in the UK and the leading cause of death from infection in young children. The government's independent expert advisory committee on vaccines, the JCVI, has now recommended the vaccine for all babies at 2, 4 and 12 months of age.
Christopher Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: "MenB has been at the top of this charity's agenda for decades and we are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this most feared and deadly disease has now been recommended. Last July the JCVI invited MRF to respond to their interim statement that the vaccine would not be cost effective. We submitted evidence to show that the impact of the disease on people affected was underestimated, and provided further data on the cost of this illness. This has been taken into account by the committee in their statement issued today. We are delighted that the response we submitted has had an impact, and the voice of people affected has been heard."
Mr Head continued: "It's a wonderful outcome which will save lives and spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one seriously disabled by the devastating after effects of MenB. The bitter experience of those who have suffered was vital in our campaign for this vaccine, demonstrating the compelling case for prevention. We pay tribute to them and pledge to continue supporting them."
Dr Simon Nadel, MRF advisor and Consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care, St Mary's Hospital, London, who spearheaded a letter from 330 leading medics and scientists to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for the introduction of the vaccine, was elated to hear this news. Dr Nadel said: "I have worked with children desperately ill from this disease my entire working life and know how difficult it is to diagnose and treat. Prevention through vaccination is the only answer."
Professor Ray Borrow, Chair of MRF's Scientific Advisory Panel and vaccine researcher for Public Health England said "This is a tremendous step forward. I've been involved in MenB vaccine research for over 20 years, including research funded by Meningitis Research Foundation to enable laboratory evaluation of this vaccine, and ground-breaking genome sequencing research that will help us see how well the vaccine works. It is wonderful to see research taking us closer to protecting children from meningitis and septicaemia.
Meningitis Research Foundation marks 25 years of funding vital research into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia. Since 2011 the charity's research has demonstrated the burden of disease and need for a vaccine. We aim to continue to fund research to help implement and evaluate MenB vaccination.