ALL babies in Scotland will be offered a potentially life-saving vaccination against a deadly strain of meningitis from later this year.
The Scottish Government announced today that from 1 September the meningitis B vaccine will be introduced as part of the routine childhood vaccination programme in Scotland.
‘Many will now be spared the trauma of seeing a loved one die’
The move was welcomed by health campaigners, who said the simple jab – given in three doses at two, four and 12 months – could spare families the heartbreak of seeing a loved one die or be left seriously disabled by meningitis and septicaemia.
Some forms of meningitis have already been wiped out by vaccination, but meningitis B – the most common form of the illness – has remained a killer, with one in ten sufferers dying from the infection.
Meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia remain the leading infectious cause of death for children under the age of five in the UK.
But even children who survive can face neurological damage, limb amputation and severe skin damage.
After years of campaigning by health experts and affected families, Scotland is now one of the few nations in the world to offer the vaccination.
It was previously ruled that the vaccine should not be introduced in the UK because it was not cost effective.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there should also be a one-off, catch-up programme for infants aged three and four months of age who will be attending for their routine vaccinations.
Additionally, in response to an increase in the number of cases of rarer meningitis W, a new vaccine will be introduced to replace the MenC vaccine currently used in the adolescents and freshers vaccination programmes.
From 1 August that vaccine will be offered to students under the age of 25 attending university for the first time this autumn, along with a catch-up programme for all 14- to 18-year-olds.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “These two new vaccination programmes will offer families in Scotland extra peace of mind. Around 1,200 people – mainly babies and children – get meningitis B each year in the UK, and around one in ten die from the infection.”
Chief executive of Meningitis Now, Sue Davie said: “We’re delighted to see these vaccination programmes moving forward and offering protection to new babies and young people across Scotland.
“Today’s announcement is a tribute to the tireless and selfless efforts of our supporters, for many of whom sadly these vaccines come too late. We are ready to support the introductions in any way we can.”
Scotland manager of the Meningitis Research Foundation, Mary Millar, added: “These two programmes are the culmination of years of research which will spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one die or left seriously disabled by meningitis and septicaemia.”
Gemma Lessells, from Inverkeithing, said she supported the move for universal vaccines after her young son contracted the infection.
She said: “My son Matthew contracted meningitis B in 2010 when he was 13 months old. He was quiet and had a temperature at 4pm. He started being sick at 6 pm and by 10 pm he was in hospital fighting for his life.
“We were incredibly lucky – Matthew survived, though has delayed expressive speech and suffered night terrors following his hospital stay. We are also in the process of discussing possible behavioural side effects with his health visitor, but other than that we have a gorgeous healthy happy boy with a laugh that lights up a room. I would not want any parent or child to go through what we did, and welcome news of the implementation of these two new vaccines in Scotland.”