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Meningitis B Vaccine to be Introduced in the UK

Update Date: Mar 21, 2014 03:31 PM EDT

Babies born in the United Kingdom might be able to get the meningitis B vaccine soon after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) backed the jab recently. Last year, the JCVI stated that the jab was not cost-effective. However, after new evidence revealed that the vaccine could protect infants from the infection, the committee has taken another stance.

"After very careful consideration, JCVI concluded that use of the new vaccine would reduce cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicemia and lead to a reduction in deaths, limb amputations and brain injury caused by the disease," Professor Andrew Pollard, chairman of the JCVI and professor of pediatric infection and immunity at the University of Oxford said according to BBC News. "Today the JCVI published its recommendation to the UK health departments that if the new vaccine can be purchased at a low price and is therefore cost effective for the NHS, it should be used in the routine immunization program for babies in the UK to prevent disease,"

Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that causes the brain and the spinal cord to become inflamed. The infection can lead to many life-changing consequences, such as brain damage or loss of a limb. Babies younger than one-year-old have a greater risk of getting the infection and cases of meningitis tend to peak in infants between five and six-months-old.

In order to prevent the potentially dangerous side effects of meningitis, the JCVI has recommended the UK government to add the vaccine to the already existing immunization schedule. Next year, around 700,000 infants over the age of two-months could be eligible for the jab.

The available vaccine, called the Bexsero jab, is manufactured by Novartis. This vaccine is the only one that can protect the body from meningitis B. Based on several tests, the researchers reported that the vaccine is 73 percent effective in fighting different strains of meningitis.

Novartis stated that it would be "ready to supply" the jab once the government's Department of Health gives it the go.

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