All Scots children to be offered meningitis vaccine

ALL infants in Scotland are to be offered a vaccination against meningitis B through the NHS under the routine childhood immunisation programme.

Children can be given doses at two, four and 12 months. Picture: PA
Children can be given doses at two, four and 12 months. Picture: PA
Children can be given doses at two, four and 12 months. Picture: PA

The vaccine, Bexsero, will be introduced to the immunisation programme for young children “as quickly as possible” following negotiations on behalf of the Department of Health and the devolved government with manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

Around 1,200 people, mainly babies and children, get meningitis caused by the meningococcal group B bacteria each year in the UK, with around one in 10 dying from the infection.

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Controversy recently erupted after it emerged that the Bexsero MenB vaccine was still not available to children despite being recommended by UK health advisers a year ago.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government has been consistent in its support for the introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero. We will now work to roll out the vaccination programme as quickly as possible.

“The Meningitis B vaccine will now form part of the routine childhood immunisation programme in Scotland, underlining our commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our children.

“Meningitis B is life-threatening and can affect people of any age, but is most common in babies and young children. By offering this vaccine as part of the routine programme, we will be able prevent this and save lives.

“This disease can be devastating for children and their families and I’m very pleased we can now take the necessary steps to tackle its effects.”

The vaccination will be given in three doses at two, four and 12 months, with all babies in Scotland aged two months at the point of introduction being eligible.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has also advised that when the programme starts there should be a one-off, catch-up programme for babies aged three and four months of age. The vaccine is likely to be available in Scotland from September.

Sue Davie, chief executive of Meningitis Now, said: “To know that babies will be protected against MenB is fantastic and another great step forward in our fight against meningitis.

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“Families for whom this comes too late, and for whom we will always be here to support, have campaigned tirelessly and selflessly with us to make sure no other families suffer as they have.”

Chris Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “MenB has been at the top of this charity’s agenda for decades and we are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this devastating disease is now within sight, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in meningitis prevention.

“When this vaccine is introduced, it will save lives and spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one die or become seriously disabled because of MenB. At this time, we pay tribute to all those who have been personally affected by this disease and to all the scientists and health professionals involved in the creation of the vaccine.”