The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) welcomed news last week that a potentially lifesaving vaccine to prevent MenB is one step closer after being given approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
This is the first ever vaccine against meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia (MenB) and is designed to cover most strains of the disease in Europe.
MenB is responsible for an average of 1870 cases across the UK each year, mostly in young children. Around 1 in 10 people affected will die, and a further 1 in 10 survivors will be left with serious after-effects, such as limb amputations, deafness, blindness, and brain damage.
The new vaccine is currently waiting for its licence from the European Commission before governments can consider giving it to children. The UK Government takes vaccination advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. If they recommend the new MenB vaccine, the earliest it could be implemented in the UK would be the end of 2013.
Chris Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: " We have a vision of a world free from meningitis and septicaemia so this news is a huge boost for our members and their families, and for doctors and scientists who have all worked tirelessly against this devastating disease. Since the first meningitis vaccine was introduced in 1992, many strains of meningitis including Hib, MenC and pneumococcal have been dramatically reduced. Once the MenB vaccine is licensed, it is essential that Government give it full consideration as soon as possible, especially given the shocking lifetime costs to people who survive MenB and are left with serious, life-long disabilities. We must not allow children to die from this disease if it can be prevented"
Rachel Clarke from Essex wishes the vaccine had been available sooner as it may have saved her son's life, she said: "Our eldest son Sam was four when he died from meningococcal septicaemia in 2006. He became poorly in the evening having a tummy ache and shivering but nothing obviously untoward. At 2am after waking and going to the toilet my husband noticed a purple rash on Sam's torso. He called me and on lifting Sam's pyjama top we saw the rash come up before our eyes Â– it was like he had been splattered with purple paint. In the ambulance I held Sam's hand and told him I loved him. By the time we reached hospital he was losing consciousness. Just 9 hours after first feeling unwell Sam lost his life. We were shell-shocked. He had always been well and healthy and now he had gone. Meningitis can affect anyone at anytime and is completely devastating. If a vaccine has been produced to prevent this disease it should be made available as soon as possible to prevent any other family loosing a loved one or being left seriously disabled."