TWO lifesaving vaccines – including the UK’s first Meningitis B vaccine – will be rolled out this summer, the Department of Health this week.

Health Minister Jane Ellison confirmed that England becomes the first country in the world to offer newborn babies the revolutionary new meningococcal group B (Men B) vaccine Bexsero via a national health service, from September 1.

Furthermore, to combat the rise in Men W cases in adolescents, all 17 and 18-year-olds will receive the combined Meningitis ACWY vaccine from August.

Meningitis Now and its supporters, who have campaigned for two years to get the ground-breaking MenB vaccine free on the NHS, welcomed the announcement.

Meningitis Now chief executive, Sue Davie, said: “We’re delighted that this milestone in the journey to introduce these vaccines and protect our babies and young people from the devastation meningitis causes has been reached.

“These measures will save thousands of lives and protect people from losing loved ones to the deadly disease.”

The national charity’s award-winning Beat it Now! campaign has relentlessly pushed for Bexsero to be free to all babies via the childhood immunisation programme.

Sue added: “It’s a tribute to our supporters’ selfless and tireless efforts that we have now reached this stage.

“However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that for many the announcement comes too late. We’re here to help them for as long as they need us.”

Sue also sounded a note of caution about the announcement.

“Whilst this is good news it does not mean meningitis is beaten.

“Our message is ‘Don’t become complacent about meningitis’ – there are still strains without vaccines and there will still be people who are not protected by these vaccine programmes.

“It’s vital to learn the signs and symptoms, stay vigilant and seek immediate medical help if you suspect the disease.”

Meningitis Now has vowed to continue campaigning to extend the availability of the Men B vaccine to other at-risk groups.

The infant Men B immunisation programme will begin on 1 September. The vaccine will be offered for babies starting at two months of age, followed by another dose at four months and a booster dose at 12 months.

There will also be a limited catch-up programme for infants who are due their three and four month vaccinations in September.

The Men ACWY vaccine programme will begin in August with 17 to 18-year-olds (School year 13) and older university entrants (aged 19 to 25) being offered the vaccine.

These age groups are at the highest risk of infection because of close contact in shared accommodation, such as university halls of residence.

The same age groups will be offered immunisation in 2016 and 2017.

These measures apply to England and Scotland only.

For more information, visit Meningitis NOW.

TV PRESENTER and new mum Charlotte Hawkins is backing a campaign to provide all new mums with meningitis symptoms cards.

More than 820,000 cards are being included in Bounty packs this year, which are offered to all new parents following the birth of their baby, as part of a new initiative by UK charity Meningitis Now.



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