TWO meningitis charities have welcomed the news that a revolutionary vaccine against the deadliest strand of the disease could soon be licensed in the UK.
The 4CMenB vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, received a ‘positive opinion’ verdict from the European Medicines Agency last Friday.
The announcement represented a huge leap forward for Thornbury-based organisation Meningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis UK, founded by Alveston pioneer Steve Dayman, which have both been fundraising for decades to further research into the infection.
Mr Dayman, who lost his baby Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia in 1982, said: "This is a landmark moment in the fight against meningitis. I have waited three decades to hear this.
"It is vital that the vaccine is introduced in the UK immunisation schedule as soon as possible. It will save countless lives and prevent many people enduring the suffering caused by this devastating disease.
"We will be campaigning hard to make the government introduce it."
The new vaccine will require a licence from the European Commission before governments can consider it for implementation. The UK will then take advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
If members approve it, the new MenB vaccine could be in use by 2013.
Chris Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "We have a vision of a world free from meningitis and septicaemia so this news is a huge boost for our members and their families, and for doctors and scientists who have all worked tirelessly against this devastating disease. "Since the first meningitis vaccine was introduced in 1992, many strains of meningitis including Hib, MenC and pneumococcal have been dramatically reduced."
He added: "Once the MenB vaccine is licensed, it is essential that Government give it full consideration as soon as possible, especially given the shocking lifetime costs to people who survive MenB and are left with serious, life-long disabilities. We must not allow children to die from this disease if it can be prevented."
The UK is a hotspot for meningitis B, with one of the highest rates in the world.
It affects an average of 1,870 people each year, many of them children, with one in ten people succumbing to the disease. Around one in four are also left with mental and physical handicaps, such as brain damage and limb loss.
The last major injection against meningitis, the pneumococcal vaccine, took five years to be introduced into the country’s immunisation schedule.
The revolutionary 4CMenB could protect against 73 per cent of strains causing the disease, according to scientists.