The Bexsero or 4CMenB vaccine, which protects against group B meningococcus, has recently been granted a licence for the immunisation of children older than two months.
Meningitis is characterised by the inflammation of the meninges (the protective linings of the brain and spinal cord). Infection by a variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause meningitis, with bacterial meningitis being fatal. Meningitis B is the most common cause of meningococcal diseases in Europe, and is considered to be the most deadly form of the disease. In the UK, meningitis B is responsible for 90% of cases, with children under the age of five the most susceptible to the disease. Around 1,870 people are affected every year and 1 in 10 sufferers die, whilst 1 in 4 are left with life-changing after effects such as brain damage or limb loss.
The Bexsero vaccine was manufactured by the company Novartis after 20 years of development, and has been shown to cover 73% of the strains affecting the UK. Meningitis UK wants the vaccination to be introduced into the immunisation programme as soon as possible, but when it will be introduced is still uncertain.
There are already vaccines for other strains of meningitis (such as the Meningitis C, Hib and pneumococcal vaccines) that are part of the childhood immunisation program in the UK, but a vaccine for meningitis B has not been available until now.