Meningitis B vaccine rejected in the UK

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The first vaccine to protect against meningitis B has been rejected for use.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says there are a lot of unanswered questions about the vaccine. It says there is not evidence that Bexsero, developed by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis, will protect children well enough to justify routine vaccination.

It also questions whether the vaccine would be cost effective if adopted by the NHS.

Campaigners, who have been campaigning for the vaccine since it was licensed in January, say the decision is a severe blow for those fighting the disease.

Brain damage

Meningitis B is the most common form of meningitis in the UK, affecting an average of 1,870 people each year, including children under five who are most at risk from the disease. One in 10 people who contract meningitis B die from it and up to one in four are left with severe after affects such as brain damage or limb loss.

Bexsero is the first vaccine against meningococcal B meningitis to receive a marketing licence for use in the UK  .

Experts say it should protect against 73% of the different strains of meningitis B.

The UK has one of the highest incidence rates of meningitis B in the world.

The JCVI says that on the basis of the available evidence, routine infant or toddler immunisation using Bexsero is highly unlikely to be cost effective whatever the cost of the vaccine based on current thresholds.

‘We lack important evidence’

The director of immunisation at the Department of Health, Professor David Salisbury, says in a statement: “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.”

WebMD & BBC World News Watch

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