A meningitis B vaccine called Bexsero has been licensed by the European Commission and will soon be available in the UK
Meningitis, if left untreated, can cause severe brain damage and infect the blood (septicaemia). In some cases bacterial meningitis can be fatal.
The charity Meningitis UK, estimates that there are 1,870 cases of meningitis B each year in the UK. Meningitis B is most common in children under five years old, and in particular in babies under the age of one.
While there are effective vaccines against the other common strains of bacterial meningitis (A, C, W-135, Y3), until now, there has been no vaccine against the B strain.
According to NHS Choices, the vaccine Bexsero, is provides 73% protection against meningitis B, which should significantly reduce the number of cases. The vaccine can be administered to infants aged two months or older by practice nurses - either by itself, or in combination with other childhood vaccines.
The vaccine has been tested in clinical trials involving over 8,000 people. In infants, it was found to have similar levels of safety and tolerability as other routine childhood vaccines. The most commonly reported side effects were redness and swelling at the site of the injection, irritability and/or fever
It is uncertain whether the NHS will provide the vaccine free of charge because the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not yet made any announcement.
The JCVI is due to meet in June 2013, although they are unlikely to make a decision until they have had time to consider the evidence of cost-effectiveness and safety in greater detail.