A CHARITY has welcomed news that a new vaccine to protect against four strains of meningitis has received approval for use.

Pharmaceutical company Novartis has developed a conjugate vaccine called Menveo which will give coverage against four of the five major groups responsible for causing meningococcal meningitis, A, C, W135 and Y.

The vaccine has been given approval for use in the European Union, including the UK.

In tests, the new vaccine has proven to provide a higher level of protection in teenagers and older adults aged 56-65.

Steve Dayman, the chief executive of Meningitis UK, from Alveston who lost his own son Spencer in 1982 to the illness, said: "This is another significant step on the road to eradicating meningitis. This vaccine will save lives in these high-risk age groups.

"This will bring much comfort to Meningitis UK’s supporters nationwide who work tirelessly to raise funds to protect future generations from experiencing the devastation of meningitis."

Meningococcal meningitis is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in the UK.

One in ten people who contract meningococcal meningitis die and half of those who survive will be left with some form of disability such as deafness, brain damage and seizures.

Young people and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of contracting meningococcal disease.

There is still no vaccine to protect against meningococcal group B, the most common form of the disease in the UK. Meningitis UK’s Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign aims to raise £7million to help develop a vaccine against this form.

Mr Dayman says: "In the absence of vaccines to protect against all stains, it is vital that people remain vigilant for the symptoms of the disease and seek prompt treatment if at all in doubt."