Meningococcal Group B (MenB)

It’s here, the news we’ve all be waiting for! UK babies will soon be offered a vaccine that protects against meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal B (MenB) infection as part of the routine immunisation programme for children.

In September 2015 UK babies born on or after 1 July 2015 will be offered the vaccine alongside their other routine immunisations and babies born on or after 1 May will be offered the vaccine as part of a one off catch-up. 

Meningococcal bacteria has for decades been the single largest cause of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK. Babies, toddlers and adolescents are most at risk. It leads to death in 10% of all cases and to long-term after effects in a further 36%. Department of Health (DH) surveys have consistently shown that meningitis is the illness parents of young children in our country fear the most. Each year it costs the NHS millions of pounds in medical litigation, and the long-term costs to government of a severe case can exceed £3 million.

Your support has been crucial in seeing the vaccine through to implementation. Thank you for enabling us to keep the issue high on the political agenda by signing petitions calling for the introduction of the vaccine.

This is a great step forward in the fight against meningitis and septicaemia in the UK, but the war is not over yet. The new MenB vaccine will not protect against all strains of disease and there are other causes of meningitis and septicaemia which are not yet vaccine preventable. Research into disease prevention and MenB vaccine evaluation is still urgently needed and your support remains crucial to our vision of a world free of meningitis and septicaemia.
Ellie Mae Mellor

Men B vaccine - the long road to implementation

It took many years of research to develop a MenB vaccine followed by years of campaigning for its implementation, but the end of the road is finally in our sights. In June 2015 the welcome news broke that babies would start to be immunised in September the same year.

In March 2015, following lengthy price negotiations, the government announced that all babies in the UK will soon be vaccinated against meningococcal B (MenB) disease as part of the national childhood immunisation programme. The announcement came almost a year to the day after the vaccine had been recommended for routine use in babies aged 2, 4 and 12 months by UK government advisors, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). 

Your support has been crucial in seeing the vaccine through to implementation. Thank you for enabling us to keep the issue high on the political agenda by signing petitions calling for the introduction of the vaccine. Two petitions were delivered to Downing Street totalling more than 50,000 signatures to which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt personally responded

As the first anniversary of the JCVI's recommendation loomed in March 2015, members and supporters joined our #WheresOurVaccine campaign, sending selfies to Mr Hunt, sending him hundreds of tweets, writing to their MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates, appearing in hundreds of national and regional newspapers throughout the country, as well as dozens of national outlets, to demand, #WheresOurVaccine?

Twice, in January 2014 and March 2015, leading clinicians supported letters to Mr Hunt . The letters were organised by MRF, led by Dr Simon Nadel, and both were published in the Times and featured in national news items in broadcast and print media.

Even the JCVI recommendation was not a straightforward process and their initial analysis found the vaccine unlikely to be cost effective. When the JCVI invited comment on this we provided crucial evidence to highlight the value of this vaccine and expressed our concerns that cost effectiveness analysis undervalues the impact of this disease. Some of our members took part in a study about the family impact of meningitis and septicaemia and evidence from this study formed a key component of our response. In light of the new evidence the JCVI were able to make a positive recommendation.

In the last couple of year our genome library has been providing new evidence which supports increased value of the MenB vaccine to UK children and increases the urgency for its introduction. A particularly deadly strain of MenW, identified by our genome library as ST-11, is on the rise and the MenB vaccine would protect against it.

This vaccine will save lives and spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one die or become seriously disabled because of MenB. The bitter experience of those who have been personally affected has been vital in our campaigning for this vaccine, demonstrating the compelling case for prevention. We pay tribute to them and pledge to continue supporting them.

The end of the road is in our sights but we are still some way from the end of our journey. The vaccination programme is only for babies and we remain concerned that toddlers and teenagers the next highest risk groups remain unprotected. Vaccinating teenagers in particular has the potential to protect the wider population because they are key to transmission and spread of this disease. We continue to campaign for wider use of the vaccine.

Malawian waiting room

The unfolding MenB story

Malawian waiting room

Does cost effectiveness underestimate the impact of meningitis?

We believe that the cost effectiveness framework that the JCVI have to work with is unfair for the evaluation of vaccines that prevent rare and serious illness in children.

Find out more

Why has it been so difficult to develop a MenB vaccine?

Unlike other bacteria which cause meningitis and speticaemia, the sugar coat of MenB bacteria does not trigger an immune response, because it looks like developing human brain cells.

This means that the immune system does not recognise it as a foreign invader, and this protects it from attack. So using the sugar coat just does not work for MenB vaccine development.

The search for a MenB vaccine has had to focus on other elements of the surface of MenB bacteria but it has been very difficult to find elements which are both ‘visible’ to the immune system and present in every MenB strain.

Even elements that are usually present are extremely variable, so the immune response against a vaccine made from one kind of MenB may not be capable of killing all the different MenB strains.

MenB Vaccine Research Appeal

We are funding ground breaking research to provide the evidence for an extended MenB vaccination process.

MenB by numbers

  • 1761 average cases of MenB in UK per year
  • 10% of survivors will have a major disability including amputations, brain damage and hearing loss
  • 33% of survivors will have minor deficits including psychological disorders & reduced IQ
  • 640,000 doses have been distributed worldwide
  • 73% in UK and 78% in Europe predicted coverage of new MenB vaccine
  • 22 years since the first meningitis vaccine introduced – Hib 1992

Men B vaccine. Bexsero - The facts

Your questions about the MenB vaccine answered

Read our in-depth Q and A about the vaccine

MenB - the human cost

Diana Man
Paralympics reporter and keen equestrian Diana, is 30 years old and building a new life without her lower legs, her fingers and with epilepsy. A former record-breaking hurdler, she became ill in November 2007 but refuses to let her disabilities hold her back. “My life has changed a great deal, but I have learned to manage just like anyone else. The journey I have been through, and many of the people I have met, have taught me a lot about myself. There is always someone worse off.”

Read Diana's story in full

Harry Mills
Harry was just 11 years old when he died in April 2007 and since then his family and friends have raised over £100,000 for our charity, specifically for research into MenB. His parents Judi and Richard say: “Harry always had a beaming smile on his face and limitless enthusiasm for sport and life itself. He woke feeling unwell but with no obvious symptoms. We just thought it was a bug. By evening we even thought he was well enough to return to school the following day. It was not to be. Harry's short life was extinguished in a single day.”

Read Harry's story in full

Tilly Lockey
Tilly was 15 months old when she was misdiagnosed with an ear infection in January 2007. She was supposed to be “as right as rain in 36 hours” but was soon fighting for her life. She ended up having both hands amputated. Her toes dropped off at home. Mum Sarah says: “I cried and cried thinking 'how is she going to get through life without hands?’ We have watched our baby girl in so much pain and be so brave. She truly is an inspiration to everyone she meets.”

Sarah Lockey talks to Meningitis Research Foundation about how having amputations as a result of meningococcal septicaemia has affected her daughter's life

David Ellson
David Ellson, from Northern Ireland, died of MenB in February 2002 when he was two-and-a-half years old. His mother Maureen says: “The doctor told us he was very ill and they had struggled to stabilise him after the transfer. Even at that point I couldn't believe he was going to die. I didn't think it was possible that something so bad could happen to our family, we were good people and surely bad things don't happen to good people.”

Read Maureen's story in full

Counting the Cost of Meningitis

Robbie Jones is a MenB survivor. He lost both legs to the disease aged 23 months in 2008. His mum Gill backed our campaign to highlight the true cost of meningitis – which we estimate at around £3m for the lifelong care of each person seriously disabled.

With Robbie, she gathered hundreds of names for our Counting the Cost petition and they both helped deliver the petition of nearly 17,000 names to No 10 Downing Street on 17 September: “Robbie’s illness has been our worst nightmare,” says Gill. “Which is why we committed ourselves to collecting signatures. We want to ensure everyone is aware of the dangers of the disease and that every child is protected against all types of meningitis and septicaemia.”

Find out more about Counting the Cost

The journey of a new vaccine

From research to implementation. It's takes many years for a vaccine to be available.

Find out why