The number of cases of septicaemia and meningitis caused by the MenB infection in UK infants has fallen by nearly 50%, shows research from Public Health England.
The drop has been attributed to the introduction of the new vaccine, Bexsero, last year, the world's first infant vaccination programme to do so.
The number of MenB cases in infants aged less than one, the age group most likely to be affected, fell by 42%, with disease rates in vaccinated children less than one fifth of the rate in unvaccinated infants.
Only 37 cases have been recorded in the eligible age group since the programme began; this compared to an average of 74 cases in the same period from the previous four years.
‘This is without doubt great news,’ said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE. ‘MenB is a rare, but terrible disease. It’s cut many lives short and can leave children maimed for life, causing devastation for their families. Now we know this vaccine can and will save lives and prevent lifelong disability.’
PHE credits the high coverage rate of the vaccine as crucial to the fall. Data from the organisation found that over 95% of babies got their first jab and almost 90% the second jab by the age of six months. It is offered as three jabs; the first at two months, a second at four months and a final booster at 12 months.
‘The programme is still in its early days, so we will be monitoring the longer term impact of the vaccine through our surveillance programme,’ added Dr Ramsay. ‘But the benefit of the vaccine is clear. We hope countries around the world looking at these results will consider introducing similar vaccination programmes, hopefully saving the lives of many, many children.’