Research confirms MenB vaccine prevents needless deaths

22 Jan 2020
Research confirms MenB vaccine prevents needless deaths

New studies are part of ongoing work on vaccine impact to prevent more cases of meningitis and septicaemia.

The MenB vaccination programme has reduced cases of meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia in young children by 75%, according to research from Public Health England (PHE). 

The MenB vaccine (Bexsero) was brought into the UK infant immunisation programme in 2015 to protect children from MenB (meningococcal B) bacterial meningitis. Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) successfully campaigned for it after an initial decision against introducing the vaccine.

New PHE research published in the New England Journal of Medicine now estimates that since the vaccine was introduced, 277 cases of meningitis and septicaemia have been prevented.

"This means that fewer families will be affected by this devastating disease and fewer children will be living with severe after effects - Linda Glennie, Director of Research, MRF

Commenting on the research, Linda Glennie, Director of Research at MRF says: “It is reassuring to see this latest evidence that the vaccine is protecting children, and that protection is sustained for at least two years.  This means that fewer families will be affected by this devastating disease and fewer children will be living with severe after effects.”

The PHE study is published alongside a separate study from Australia which looked at how the vaccine could be used. This Australian ‘B Part of It’ study assessed whether vaccinating teenagers with Bexsero prevented them from carrying MenB bacteria. It was hoped that by immunising the age group most likely to carry the bacteria, we could prevent it from spreading around the population, creating community protection. The results suggest that, for Bexsero, protection against MenB will be reliant on direct protection of vaccinated individuals, rather than stopping the bacteria from spreading to others.

Linda Glennie says: “This well-conducted Australian research didn’t find evidence for wider protection of the population by vaccinating teenagers. This is disappointing as we hoped it could offer broader protection to save more lives.  However, such studies may not be able to capture more subtle, population based effects on carriage and circulation of the bacteria that could only be revealed by large scale immunisation of the population over several years.  The introduction of Bexsero into the routine immunisation schedule of South Australia will provide an opportunity to evaluate this and give us more information on how vaccination can help protect people from this devastating illness.”

“Ongoing UK research will also contribute to our understanding of vaccine impact and effectiveness, and will inform development of more vaccines that could prevent MenB cases in the future.”

In the UK, a major study ‘Be on the TEAM’ is now underway, which is examining the potential impact of MenB vaccines on teenagers who, along with younger children, are known to host or carry the bugs that cause meningitis more than other age groups.

MRF is also funding a study to find out whether it a single dose of Bexsero would be sufficient to protect teenagers against MenB if they were vaccinated as infants. Further research is also underway looking at whether Bexsero can help protect against closely related bacteria that cause gonorrhoea. 

We fund research into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and sepsis
Current research programme - Investigating whether a single dose of the MenB vaccine is enough to boost teenagers' immunity gained from infant MenB vaccination
Vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest threats to global health. But why does it happen?
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
Give researchers the clues to help defeat meningitis
£160/€190/$214 decodes the genetic information in a sample of meningococcal bacteria. This information helps us to track new forms of meningitis and campaign to introduce new vaccines.
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