The Department of Health (DH) has stated its intent to introduce the meningitis B vaccine into the childhood vaccination programme.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that evidence shows the Bexsero® vaccine, developed by Novartis, is effective in preventing MenB in infants and should be included in the childhood vaccination programme, subject to it being made available by the manufacturer at a cost-effective price.
The JCVI recommended adding the vaccination to the primary childhood programme, meaning that infants will be immunised from two months of age.
Barbara Stuttle, the chair of the Association for Nurse Prescribers, said that this was a pioneering step. 'This will save lives and prevent some children living with complications from the disease. The important thing for nurses is that they understand the components of the vaccine they are giving and, importantly, side effects and contra-indications. Nurses are very experienced in dealing with new drugs and what they have to do and know before giving any medication to patients ensuring it is safe.'
Deputy chief medical officer professor John Watson said: '[The DH] will be working closely with Novartis and if negotiations are successful, we hope to work with the other UK health departments to introduce the vaccine as quickly as possible.'
Meningitis charities have been campaigning for the use of the vaccination since last year when it was limited due to high costs.
Professor Andrew Pollard, chairman of the JCVI and professor of paediatric infection and immunity at the University of Oxford, said: 'After very careful consideration, JCVI 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. The JCVI has published its recommendation to the UK health departments that if the new vaccine can be purchased at a low price, it should be used in the routine immunisation programme for babies in the UK to prevent disease.'
The JCVI also advised the vaccine be offered to three and four month-olds as a one-off catch-up programme when it is introduced.