First meningitis B vaccine could be available in UK next year

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 20 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7867
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The first vaccine for meningitis B is set to become available in the United Kingdom next year after being recommended by the European Medicines Agency.

The agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has granted marketing authorisation for Bexsero, a new vaccine from Novartis intended to immunise people aged 2 months or older against invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis group B.

If accepted, the vaccine could become available in the UK next year, subject to approval from the UK Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, which is currently assessing the vaccine for inclusion in the UK national immunisation programme.

Currently no authorised vaccine is available in the European Union for meningitis B, which accounts for more than half (55%) of cases of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK.1 The strain mainly affects infants and younger children but can also occur in older children and young adults.

The European Commission typically implements recommendations from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use and will announce its final decision within three months, to cover all European Union and European Economic Area countries.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation is considering evidence on the epidemiology and carriage of different meningococcal serogroup B strains, the cost of treating the disease itself and the long term conditions it can cause, and the possible clinical effectiveness and effects of the vaccine.

The success of the vaccination programme for meningitis C, which was introduced in 1999, has led to type B infections accounting for between 85% and 90% of cases of meningococcal disease.2

Recent research indicated that a third of children who survived bacterial meningitis were left with long term health consequences.3

Matthew Snape, consultant paediatrician and vaccinologist in the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, who was involved in developing the vaccine, said, “The vaccine targets serogroup B meningococcus (MenB), a major cause of childhood meningitis in the UK and other industrialised countries.

“Given that the disease most commonly targets young children, having been able to enrol large numbers of healthy children into these trials has been incredibly important for this vaccine’s development. Indeed we administered the first dose of this vaccine ever given to a child, just over five years ago. Seeing that the vaccine is now going to be licensed is very rewarding.”

Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group at Oxford University, said, “The licensure of a group B meningococcal vaccine is a big step forward towards the hope of controlling this devastating disease.”

David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said, “Meningitis is a considerable worry for many parents, so we’re pleased that a meningococcal B vaccine may soon be licensed for use.

“The independent expert group on vaccines that advises the government is currently looking at use of this vaccine and will provide advice in due course.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7867