A NEW vaccine against the deadly disease meningitis B is set be made available free on the NHS.
The Government announced today that the vaccine – which protects against the UK’s most common form of bacterial meningitis – will be added to the childhood immunisation schedule if a cost-effective price can be negotiated.
The NHS had previously been advised against adopting it due to a lack of evidence of its effectiveness.
Now the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has endorsed Bexsero, the Government must legally accept the recommendation.
The UK has one of the highest Meningitis B incidence rates in the world, affecting an estimated 1,870 people a year.
One in 10 people affected will die and one in three will be left with debilitating after-effects such as loss of limbs or brain damage, according to campaigners.
It kills more children under five than any other infectious disease in the UK.
Charities have campaigned to get the lifesaving vaccine Bexsero introduced since it was licensed in Europe last January.
Meningitis Now, the UK’s largest meningitis charity, have led the Beat it Now lobbying campaign over the past year.
Founder Steve Dayman, of Alveston, launched the charity after losing his baby Spencer to meningitis B in 1982.
He said: “This is the most monumental announcement in the fight against the disease in the 31 years I have campaigned to eradicate meningitis.
“It is the decision we’ve pushed for, to have the Meningitis B vaccine given free to all infants.
“There is no doubt that it will save thousands of lives and spare survivors and their families the pain of living with life-changing after-effects.”
The charity estimates that 675 meningitis B cases in the UK could have been prevented since the vaccine was licensed for use.
Thornbury’s Meningitis Research Foundation also celebrated the news.
Chief executive Christopher Head said: “MenB has been at the top of this charity's agenda for decades and we are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this most feared and deadly disease has now been recommended.
“Last July the JCVI invited us to respond to their interim statement that the vaccine would not be cost effective.
“We submitted evidence to show that the impact of the disease on people affected was underestimated, and provided further data on the cost of this illness.
“We are delighted that the response we submitted has had an impact, and the voice of people affected has been heard.”
The Department of Health will now enter into negotiations with vaccine company Novartis to agree a price, before introducing it on the NHS.