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New meningitis vaccine is available - privately

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 23rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A vaccine against deadly meningitis B was yesterday approved by experts - but may not be available on the National Health Service in the United Kingdom before the end of the year. Families will have to go private for the vaccine. The drug is the first to prevent the form of meningitis which kills hundreds annually, half of them children less than five years of age.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Called Bexsero, the European Commission has found the vaccine to be safe and effective for infants aged two months and over and older children. It still will not become immediately available.

The Government's advisory committee on vaccination has not decided whether the jab will become part of the NHS' routine immunization program.

Health advocates fear it could take until the summer or even until the end of the year for a ruling. Meningitis U.K. Founder Steve Dayman, who lost his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and septicemia in 1982, says that "This ground-breaking vaccine is the most important development since I lost my son to meningitis 30 years ago.

"The Government must introduce the vaccine into the immunization schedule as soon as possible - it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering. Any delay means lives will be lost."

Bexsero is likely to be given as routine shots for babies from age two months in three doses, with a booster at one year, plus an initial catch-up program for toddlers and teenagers aged 15-18.

The JCVI will consider factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines.

The committee has discussed the vaccine before, but there is no deadline set for agreement. It took five years for the last major jab against meningitis - the pneumococcal vaccine - to be introduced into the immunization schedule.

Bexsero will be available privately in the "middle of the year" when supplies are released by makers Novartis. No price has been set.

Meningitis B is the most common form of bacterial meningitis - and one of the most deadly. Children can be left with major life-long complications such as limb amputations, blindness, deafness and brain damage.

Parents need to be on the lookout for symptoms in their children as meningitis can kill in four hours. Classic symptoms include a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light. One in 10 people die and one in four are left with permanent disabilities such as loss of limbs, scarring, and loss of hearing or brain damage.

Children less than five years of age, those aged 14-24 years and the elderly are most at risk. Trust your instincts -- if you suspect something is wrong, seek medical help.


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