MenB in Ireland
MenB is the killer bacteria which is the leading cause of meningitis and
septicaemia in Ireland.
It could soon be vaccine preventable, provided
governments decide to implement a vaccination programme.
While the new MenB vaccine is still being considered by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) in Ireland, there was some disappointing news from the equivalent advisory body in the UK.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises the UK Government and it has been considering the vaccine since 2011. However in interim minutes published in July 2013 the JCVI said it would not recommend the new vaccine “at any price”.
We believe the UK Government is in danger of failing millions of families for decades to come if it doesn’t implement the newly licensed meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia (MenB) vaccine, Bexsero®. The JCVI meets again on 2 October and we were invited to feedback our response in advance of that meeting. Read our response to the JCVI.
The European Commission licensed Bexsero® in January 2013 but individual countries decide whether to use it. We believe the JCVI has taken a short-sighted approach in basing their recommendation on the current number of cases and failed to consider that the disease has natural peaks and troughs. We await the news from the next JCVI meeting but in the meantime we hope that NIAC will make a more positive decision as this vaccine will save lives.Read the JCVI draft minutesSee our MenB press releaseLearn more about the MenB vaccineCatch up on the crucial research we are fundingSee how we support families already affected by MenB Take part in Focus on Meningitis by uploading your images
Introducing a new vaccine in Ireland
Bexsero, the vaccine that protects against Meningitis B has now been licensed, but there are still a number steps involved before it can be introduced into the Irish Childhood Immunisation Schedule.
- The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advises the Department of Health and Children (DoHC) on all matters related to vaccination. This is a committee of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and consists of experts in a range of disciplines including infectious diseases, paediatrics and public health. They will take into account the effectiveness of the new vaccine, value for money and best practice, and will then make recommendations to the DoHC . If they recommend the vaccine they will outline who should get it and how it might fit into the current schedule.
- The National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE) supply NIAC with a health technology assessment which is a cost benefit analysis. This estimates the burden of disease in Ireland and evaluates the cost-effectiveness of introducing the new vaccine compared to “no vaccination”. This assessment considers factors such as the cost of the vaccine, direct medical costs of the disease, quality of life of the affected child and family, and wider societal implications such a loss of earnings of parents looking after a sick child.
- If NIAC recommends the introduction of the vaccine the DoHC together with the Health Service Executives National Immunisation Office will examine the findings and make their own decision. If they agree to introduce the vaccine the procurement and planning processes can then start.
We hope that NIAC will make their recommendations public sometime in the early summer, although this has not been confirmed. Also it’s important to note that a positive recommendation from NIAC does not automatically mean that the vaccine will be introduced. Read more about the new vaccine
MenB - the human cost
It is thrilling to see all the hard work of our members paying dividends - but we also know from them just how devastating MenB is for individuals affected, their families and their friends.
It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland, with one in 10 cases dying while others can be left with serious disabilities including the loss of limbs, hearing loss and brain damage.
We take inspiration from our members. They are determined something positive should come out of their traumatic personal stories. They want us raise aware awareness and prevent others suffering. That’s why they ask us to share their experiences in print, in film and online.
Daraine lost her legs to meningococcal septicaemia
The Irish perspective
'Invasive meningococcal disease (due to group b ) is still seen in this country – the widespread rash , shock and features of meningitis are every parent’s nightmare . The introduction of a group b vaccine in addition to the c vaccine already in the immunization schedule would be a major step forward and would dramatically reduce the prevalence of meningococcal disease in Ireland'
Professor Alf Nicolson, Consultant Paediatrician, Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street Dublin
Ireland has the highest prevalence of meningococcal disease in Europe.
To help raise awareness of the issue we hosted a parliamentary briefing
in November at Buswell’s Hotel close to Leinster House.
Our panel of
experts included Ed Lavalle, a researcher at Trinity College, Richard
Drew, microbiologist formerly at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, and
consultant paediatric anaesthetist Bill Casey from Our Lady’s Children’s
Hospital. They discussed the importance of early recognition and prompt
treatment and the success of vaccination – including the fantastic
breakthroughs in research and technology that has led to a vaccine for
The meeting was moved by the eloquence of two of our members,
Brian Cavanagh and Liam Mulvihill, who spoke about how the disease has
affected their families. It has led to Parliamentary Questions to the
Minister of Health and we were invited to present to the Joint Committee
on Health and Children in December.
Parliamentary briefing at the Dáil
How our research has helped
Meningitis Research Foundation has played a crucial role in reaching this point. MenB is one of the major reasons the charity was formed and we have been in the forefront of campaigns to raise awareness and fund research.
Our funded research has demonstrated the burden of disease and need for a solution, identified antigens and developed typing systems and assays essential in enabling the evaluation of meningitis vaccines.
There was never going to be a quick solution to MenB. Vaccine development takes many years - initial research to final delivery can take up to 30 or 40 years costing hundreds of millions of pounds for the pharmaceutical companies alone. It involves many different bodies including charities like ourselves, alongside larger funding bodies, national reference laboratories and surveillance and governments.
This wonderful news is just the beginning of important research to enable implementation and evaluate impact of MenB vaccine.
Current MRF MenB research projects
MenB by numbers
- 170 average cases of MenB in Ireland per year
- 10% of survivors will have a major disability including amputations, brain damage and hearing loss
- 33% of survivors will have after effects including psychological disorders & reduced IQ
- 7500 people, including over 5000 babies & toddlers, took part in clinical trials for a vaccine
- 78% in Europe predicted coverage of strains of the new MenB vaccine
- 20 years ago the first meningitis vaccine introduced – Hib 1992
Could this be the end of meningitis?
This vaccine is a tremendous step forward and could have a major impact on MenB, but it is unlikely to prevent all cases. This is why Meningitis Research Foundation continues to fund the development of future MenB vaccines, as well as research that will tell us what impact this vaccine is having. We hope this will bring us closer to achieving a world free from meningitis and septicaemia.Read more about the new vaccine
The journey of a new vaccine
From research to implementation. It's taken time for the new MenB vaccine to reach this stage and there's still a way to go before it's part of the immunisation programme in Ireland Read 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. Read more about the new vaccine
Why MenB vaccine research must continue
“This vaccine is a real step forward and will have a major impact on MenB cases. However, meningitis will remain a major clinical problem and research into microbial causes continues to be a priority alongside raising public awareness of the symptoms.”Our Trustee Professor George Griffin, professor of Infectious Diseases and Medicine at St George’s University of London
Anticipating the first ever MenB vaccine, Chris Tang, Chair of our Scientific Advisory Panel and Professor of
Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London at the Centre for
Molecular Microbiology and Infection, told us why we need to keep funding research into MenB vaccine development.
For more information about MenB, our Freefone helpline is available 365 days a year in Ireland on 1800 41 33 44
Tel 01 819 6931
Fax 01 819 6903
Meningitis Research Foundation
63 Lower Gardiner Street