Press release

Meningococcal B vaccination programme to be introduced

Department of Health will work to introduce the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine into the childhood vaccination programme.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Following independent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department of Health will work to introduce the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine into the childhood vaccination programme.

The JCVI, the Government’s vaccine experts, says evidence shows that the Bexsero® vaccine is effective in preventing MenB in infants and should be rolled out, subject to it being made available by the manufacturer at a cost-effective price.

The Department of Health will start negotiations with Novartis, which produces the only licensed vaccine, as soon as possible. The JCVI has recommended adding the vaccination to the primary childhood programme meaning that, if plans progress, infants will be immunised starting at two months of age.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Watson said:

Infants under one year of age are most at risk of MenB and the number of cases peak at around five or six months of age. With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most make a full recovery. But it is fatal in about one in ten cases and can lead to long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

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. This would make the UK the first country in the world to implement a nationwide vaccination programme.

Read what Professor John Watson’s has to say on MenB joining the childhood vaccination programme.

Professor Andrew Pollard, chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford said:

MenB disproportionately affects babies and young children and can be devastating. 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.Today the JCVI published its recommendation to the UK health departments that if the new vaccine can be purchased at a low price and is therefore cost effective for the NHS, it should be used in the routine immunisation programme for babies in the UK to prevent disease.

Routine use of the MenB vaccine is expected to make an important contribution to the health of our population.

Christopher Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said:

We are delighted that the JCVI have recommended vaccinating all babies against this most feared and deadly disease.

It’s a wonderful outcome which will save lives and spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one seriously disabled by the devastating after effects of MenB. We pay tribute to the people who have suffered from this illness, whose bitter experience has helped demonstrate the compelling case for prevention.

Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched the meningitis movement in the UK after losing his baby Spencer to meningitis in 1982, said:

This is the news we’ve campaigned for, that the meningitis B vaccine is being introduced free for infants. This is the most monumental announcement in the fight against the disease in the 31 years I have campaigned to eradicate meningitis.

This vaccine will save thousands of lives and spare survivors and their families the pain of living with life-changing after-effects. We thank our supporters for their determined campaigning and the JCVI for listening to our arguments on the true burden of this disease.

The JCVI has also advised that the vaccine is further extended to three and four month-olds as a one-off catch-up programme when it is introduced.

Notes to Editors

  • The UK Government is already recognised as providing one of the world’s most comprehensive child vaccination programmes, and is on track to be the first country to introduce a national MenB immunisation programme.

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is an independent expert committee that provides advice to UK health departments on immunisation (search for JCVI on GOV.UK).

  • JCVI’s process is set out in its code of practice, which is available on the GOV.UK website. The committee follows the Government Office for Science Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees.

  • Meningococcal B (MenB) bacteria (a strain of Neisseria meningitidis) can cause meningitis and/or septicaemia. MenB-related meningitis and septicaemia are systemic infections caused by the bacteria. Meningitis is infection and inflammation of the meninges (lining of the brain), which can lead to death in days or hours. Septicaemia occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream resulting in blood poisoning, which can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

  • Bexsero® is a vaccine developed by Novartis to provide protection against meningococcal serogroup B bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Bexsero® was licensed by the European Medicines Agency in January 2013.

  • The Department of Health in England usually procures vaccines from manufacturers on behalf of the UK.

  • The JCVI’s statement and minutes will be made available here.

For media enquiries only please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5222.

Published 21 March 2014