Meningitis B vaccine wins European approval

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The first-ever vaccine to protect children from two months old against meningitis B has been approved for use in Europe, including the UK.

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The European Commission has given the go-ahead for the vaccine - named Bexero - to be given to individuals, in particular children who are most vulnerable, to help protect them against life-threatening meningitis B.

The vaccine, which was developed by Swiss company Novartis, is now being reviewed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which will decide whether to include it within the NHS’s immunisation programme free of charge. Until then, the vaccine will be available for parents to buy privately.

Meningitis B is a highly aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis which is most common in children under five yearsold, especially babies under the age of one. The disease infects the brain and spinal cord and if left untreated can cause severe brain damage and septicaemia.

Initial signs and symptoms of meningitis B in babies include a high fever with cold hands and feet, continuous crying, sleepiness, confusion and a blotchy red rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it. Children may also be unresponsive and feel agitated but not want to be touched.

According to the charity Meningitis UK, there are 1,870 cases of meningitis B a year in the UK.

Andrin Oswald, division head of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, the makers of the vaccine, said, ‘Each year thousands of parents see their children die or be left with severe disabilities as a result of this devastating disease. Through the combined efforts of many people over two decades, we are closer then ever to seeing an end to this suffering. Our vision is a world without meningitis, and our priority is to work with decision makers across Europe to ensure there is broad and timely access to vaccination.’


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