11:24am Tuesday 22nd January 2013
By Marion Sauvebois
A THORNBURY-based charity has welcomed news that a life-saving vaccine against meningitis has been licensed by the European Commission.
Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) told the Gazette the move was a major step forward in the organisation's continued fight to eradicate the infection.
The vaccine, ‘Bexsero’, produced by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited is the first ever injection against meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia (MenB) designed to cover most strains of the disease in Europe.
Now that it has been licensed, it will be considered for implementation in the UK by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which provides vaccination advice to the government. If its members approve it, the MenB vaccine could be rolled out in the country by the end of 2013. Chris Head, chief executive of MRF, said: "Now that the MenB vaccine is licensed, it is essential that Government give it full consideration as soon as possible, especially given the shocking lifetime costs to people who survive MenB and are left with serious, life-long disabilities. "We urge the JCVI and UK government to introduce the new MenB vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule as soon as possible. Every day of unnecessary delay in introducing this vaccine will cost lives. We must not allow children to die from this disease if it can be prevented."
Around 1,870 people are affected by MenB each year and one in three survivors are left dealing with serious after-effects including limb amputation, deafness, blindness, and brain damage.
Jonnie Peacock, gold medal winner in the 100m at the Paralympics and newly appointed patron of MRF, contracted meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia at the age of five in October 1998. As a result, he lost his right leg below the knee. He said: "Having survived the disease I know first-hand how awful it can be and the after-effects on you and your loved ones. "If a new vaccine is available to prevent children and adults dying or being left with serious disabilities I hope the UK government will make sure it is available to everyone as soon as possible."
To find out more about the MenB vaccine visit www.meningitis.org/MenB
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