All babies in England and Scotland can be vaccinated against meningitis B from September in a move that experts described as lifesaving.
Parents will be able to get jabs for the strain of the deadly brain infection for youngsters at the ages of two and four months, with a booster when they are a year old, the Department of Health and Scottish Government has announced.
The nationwide meningitis B programme will mean that England leads the world in offering children protection from this devastating disease.Public health minister Jane Ellison
They said that the infant programme, available from GPs, meant England and Scotland were the first in the world to begin “national and publicly-funded meningitis B immunisation”.
Teenagers aged 17 and 18 in the final year of sixth-form and other students aged 19 to 25 who are starting university this year will also be able to receive a vaccination against the A, C, W and Y strains of the infection from August, the DoH said, which is “particularly important” for those heading off to university.
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: I am very proud that we will be able to offer families extra peace of mind with these new vaccination programmes from this summer.
“The nationwide meningitis B programme will mean that England leads the world in offering children protection from this devastating disease.”
Around 1,200 people, mainly babies and children, get meningitis caused by the meningococcal group B bacteria each year in the UK, with around one in 10 dying from the infection.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the plan to roll out vaccinations in March, after the Government reached a deal with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.
The decision followed controversy over the Bexsero MenB vaccine after it emerged it was still not available to children despite being recommended by health advisers a year previously.
Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “These two new vaccination programmes will offer families in Scotland extra peace of mind.
“We’re delighted to be one of the first countries in the world to introduce a nationwide MenB vaccination programme to help tackle the effects of this disease, which can be devastating for children and their families.”
Ministers in the devolved governments of Wales and Northern Ireland said at the time they were also taking steps to have the meningitis B vaccination introduced.
Next spring will also see it started in schools, where it will replace the meningitis C only vaccination currently given in years nine and 10.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Now charity, said: “We’re delighted that yet another milestone in the journey to introduce these vaccines and protect our newborn babies and young people from the devastation meningitis causes has been reached - these measures will start to save lives straight away and for years to come.”
Meningitis Research Foundation chief executive Christopher Head added: “We are delighted that MenB is to be introduced as Meningitis Research Foundation has been working for many years on a MenB vaccine supporting vital research into its development and testing, and campaigning for its introduction.
“We are also happy that our Meningococcal Genome Library has played an important part in the decision to introduce a MenACWY vaccine for 17 and 18 year olds.”