UK Rejects Meningitis B Vaccine

24 Jul 2013

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Tilly Lockey lost her hands after contracting meningitis B

The only vaccine to protect against a deadly form of meningitis should not be introduced in the UK, the body that advises governments on immunisation says.

About 1,870 people contract meningitis B each year and one in 10 dies.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the vaccine was not cost-effective at any price and should not yet be adopted by the NHS.

Meningitis charities have been campaigning for it to be introduced.

It is mostly children under five who are at risk from the bacterial infection, which leads to inflammations of the brain and spinal cord.

Of those who survive a meningitis B infection, one in four is left with life altering after-effects such as brain damage or limb loss.

There are vaccines against other forms of meningitis, but the jab developed by Novartis is the only one thought to protect against meningitis B.

It is thought to be effective against 73% of the different strains of the disease.

It was licensed for use in Europe in January 2013, however, no country has yet adopted the vaccine so there is limited evidence on how it would affect the number of cases.

The JCVI said: "On the basis of the available evidence, routine infant or toddler immunisation using Bexsero is highly unlikely to be cost effective at any vaccine price based on the accepted threshold for cost effectiveness used in the UK and could not be recommended."

Prof David Salisbury, the director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said: "This is a very difficult situation where we have a new vaccine against meningitis B but we lack important evidence.

"We need to know how well it will protect, how long it will protect and if it will stop the bacteria from spreading from person to person.

"We need to work with the scientific community and the manufacturer to find ways to resolve these uncertainties so that we can come to a clear answer."

The UK introduced a vaccine against another form of the disease, meningitis C, in 1999. There used to be around 1,000 cases a year, but now the disease affects only a handful of people.
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