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UK MenB vaccine update

UK MenB vaccine update

20 August 2014

The recommendation for routine MenB immunisation for all babies in the UK was a tremendous step forward. But that was in March, so what has happened since?

Over the summer we have been pressing for progress on implementation through conversations with Department of Health officials and working with MPs to raise questions in parliament.

On 1 August, shortly after we learned that HM Treasury had approved the business case for the vaccine, the government announced that negotiations with the manufacturer, Novartis, to agree a price for the vaccine had begun. This is crucial, because a price must be agreed before arrangements can be made to roll out the programme. Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England and longstanding Scientific Advisor for MRF has clearly summarised these arrangements in a presentation here.

This week saw the publication of a huge multicentre study across the UK to find out whether the vaccine can prevent carriage and spread of meningitis-causing (meningococcal) bacteria in young adults. The impact of vaccines on the spread of the bacteria can be as important in preventing meningitis as the protection they give vaccinated children – we have seen this with other meningitis vaccines like MenC and pneumococcal (PCV13). This important study has shown that the new MenB vaccine is likely to reduce the spread of meningococcal bacteria, but the size of this effect is a very difficult thing to measure.

This is why MenB vaccination has so far only been recommended for babies – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has called for government to initiate a further targeted study in adolescents to assess the impact of MenB vaccination on carriage before they can recommend a MenB vaccination programme for adolescents. We know that this has been identified as a priority for Department of Health Research and Development, which is likely to tender for the study next year. We are keen to see this happen as soon as possible so that the vaccine can be more widely used and more lives saved from this deadly disease.

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