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Meningitis B vaccine UK agreement finalised

Deal will allow all babies to get MenB vaccine

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 30 March 2015

The government has finalised an agreement that will mean all babies in the UK will soon be vaccinated against meningococcal B (MenB).

In what it is calling a world-first, the Department of Health announced at the weekend that it has made a deal with vaccine manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), but the actual price for the vaccine is not being made public due to commercial confidentiality.

The only licensed MenB vaccine, Bexsero, will be added to the national childhood immunisation programme, meaning that children will receive the vaccine starting at two months of age, followed by two further doses at 4 months and a booster at 12 months.

Last year, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government’s independent vaccine experts, found evidence that the Bexsero vaccine was effective in preventing MenB in infants and said it should be rolled out, subject to being made available by the manufacturer at a price that was good value for the NHS.

Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: “I am very proud that we will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme, helping to protect our children from a devastating disease.

“MenB can be severely disabling or fatal, especially in babies and young children. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare so I am delighted that we have reached an agreement with GSK to supply the vaccine.”

The Department of Health will now work with GSK to secure supplies of the vaccine and bring it into the national immunisation programme from September of this year.

Nikki Yates, general manager of GSK in the UK said: “As a British company, we are delighted to have concluded an agreement with the government, just three weeks after we acquired the vaccine, which offers fair value to the NHS and at the same time is sustainable for GSK.”

Professor Andrew Pollard, chair of the JCVI said: “Group B Meningococcal disease has been a high priority for prevention for decades because it is a devastating, and potentially fatal, disease which strikes suddenly and unexpectedly, especially affecting young children.

“JCVI anticipates that introduction of the new meningitis B vaccine for babies will reduce the number of cases in early childhood, ease the burden of the disease for the NHS and defend the health of the nation’s children.”

Meningitis charities also welcomed the news and Sue Davie, chief executive of Meningitis Now said: “To know that babies will be protected against MenB is fantastic and another great step forward in our fight against meningitis. Families for whom this comes too late, and for whom we will always be here to support, have campaigned tirelessly and selflessly with us to make sure no other families suffer as they have.”

Chris Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation added: “MenB has been at the top of this charity’s agenda for decades and we are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this devastating disease is now within sight, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in meningitis prevention.”

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