UK unveils MenB, MenACWY immunisation programmes for meningococcal disease

Health officials in the UK on Sunday announced that two new vaccination programmes will be introduced this summer to protect babies and young people against the meningococcal bacterium. In September, GlaxoSmithKline's meningococcal serogroup B (MenB) vaccine Bexsero will be given to babies starting at two months of age, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. The scheme, whose implementation had been delayed over cost disputes, is the first national MenB programme in the world.

In March, GlaxoSmithKline reached an agreement with the UK Department of Health to allow infants in the UK to receive Bexsero through the NHS immunisation schedule. Although pricing details were not disclosed, GlaxoSmithKline said at the time that the agreement offered "fair value for the NHS and allows a reasonable return" for the company. Last year, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued guidance recommending the addition of Bexsero to the immunisation programme for babies as of two months of age. Andrew Pollard, chair of the JCVI, noted that the introduction of the immunisation programme for meningitis B represents "a huge step forward in controlling childhood meningitis and septicaemia."

Also, starting this August, the UK health department said young people aged 17 and 18 years old in school year 13 will be offered the MenACWY conjugate vaccine, which protects against meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y. The move is in response to a rise in the number of infections caused by a virulent strain of MenW. The MenACWY vaccine will also be available to older students aged 19 to 25 who are starting university this year. Moreover, the department stated that as of next spring, there will be a school-based vaccination programme for MenACWY, which will replace the MenC-only vaccine currently offered to school years nine and 10, in addition to a catch-up programme for those in year 11.

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