UK to become first country to offer meningococcal B vaccine to babies

The meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine is to be added to the UK’s national childhood immunisation programme, likely from September 2015. The move, announced on 29 March 2015, means that the UK is to become the first country in the world to agree to offer the vaccine to children, according to health secretary Jeremy Hunt. 

The contract details are still being finalised between the Department of Health and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the vaccine’s price is being kept confidential. Children will receive their first MenB vaccine at two months of age followed by a further two doses at four months and 12 months of age. 

The move comes a year after the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation agreed in March 2014 that Bexsero – the only UK licenced MenB vaccine – should be made available to all children pending a price agreement with the manufacturer. Negotiations about the price began with its then manufacturer Novartis. 

The discussions were continued by GSK after it acquired Novartis’s vaccine portfolio – apart from influenza — in March 2015 as part of a multibillion dollar business plan. The MenB vaccine announcement comes three weeks after GSK acquired the product from Novartis. 

The vaccine has been available privately and on the NHS to at risk children, including those without a spleen and children with splenic dysfunction or complement disorders. 

Meningococcal B bacteria — a strain of Neisseria meningitides — can cause meningitis and/or septicaemia and is potentially life-threatening. Children aged under one year are most at risk.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 18 April 2015, Vol 294, No 7858;294(7858):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20068256

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