In the biggest breakthrough in meningitis treatment in 30 years, experts in UK have approved a vaccine to prevent the most deadly strain of the disease.

However, the vaccine may not be available on the National Health Service (NHS) before the end of the year.

Until then, families will have to go private for the jab, the first to prevent the form of meningitis which kills hundreds annually — with half the deaths among under-5s.

The European Commission has found the vaccine — called Bexsero — safe and effective for infants aged two months and over and older children, ‘Daily Mail’ reported.

Health campaigners fear it could take until the summer or even end of the year for a ruling.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government, must first recommend Bexsero and decide which age groups should receive it.

It is likely to be given as routine jabs for babies from age two months in three doses, with a booster at one year, plus an initial catch-up programme 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 immunisation schedule.

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

In trials in Europe involving 7,500 children, adolescents and adults, Bexsero produced antibodies against at least 73 per cent of 1,000 meningitis B strains found.

(This article was published on January 23, 2013)
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