The meningococcal group B (MenB) Bexsero vaccine will be added to the NHS childhood immunisation programme in England from 1 September 2015. It will be offered to babies, along with other routine vaccinations, at two months, four months and 12–13 months of age.
Public Health England (PHE) has highlighted the vaccine’s “good safety record”, but noted that it is also making parents aware of an increased risk of fever when the vaccine is given alongside other immunisations, and the need to purchase infant liquid paracetamol for the two and four month appointment visits.
Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, says giving paracetamol reduces the chances of getting fever by more than a half, and also reduces the risk of irritability and discomfort, such as pain at the injection site, after vaccination.
The Meningitis Research Foundation said the introduction of the MenB vaccine had been at the top of its agenda for many years. Christopher Head, its chief executive, says: “This vaccine could potentially prevent up to 4,000 cases of meningococcal disease in children younger than five years in the UK. However, there are still some forms of the disease that are not covered by vaccines so it is vital that people are still aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.”
Ramsay says the meningococcal B strain can be attributed to 247 deaths for the four year period from 2006–2007 to 2010–2011 — an average of 62 deaths per year. “Overall, for this period the fatality rate was 5.2% (247 of 4,777 cases) and MenB accounted for 87% (4,777/5,471) of confirmed meningococcal disease,” she adds.
The vaccine has been developed by Novartis and is now manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.