UK committee backs routine use of Novartis' meningitis B vaccine Bexsero

The UK's Department of Health said Friday that it will work to introduce Novartis' meningococcal serogroup B (MenB) vaccine Bexsero into the childhood vaccination programme for infants from two months of age, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The committee had issued a negative interim decision on the vaccine last July, but after reviewing further evidence determined that it should be used if made available by Novartis at "a cost-effective price."

JCVI chairman Andrew Pollard said the committee "concluded that use of the new vaccine would reduce cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia and lead to a reduction in deaths, limb amputations and brain injury caused by the disease." He added that if Bexsero "can be purchased at a low price... it should be used in the routine immunisation programme." Studies have shown that the vaccine, which was approved in Europe in 2013 to protect individuals from two months of age and older against MenB, is effective against 73 percent of the different strains of the disease.

John Watson, the UK's deputy chief medical officer, said "we will now be working closely with Novartis in the coming months and if negotiations are successful, we hope to work with the other UK health departments to introduce a vaccine to prevent MenB as quickly as possible." He added that "this would make the UK the first country in the world to implement a nationwide vaccination programme."

Commenting on the decision, Novartis said it will work with UK public health officials "to ensure implementation of this recommendation as early as summer 2014." Bexsero is also approved in Australia and Canada for all vulnerable age groups from two months to help protect against Men B.

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