Cases of meningitis B and septicaemia in babies have nearly halved over the last year since a new vaccine was introduced, according to Public Health England (PHE) figures.
GPs have been giving the new MenB jab to infants at age two, four and 12 months since it was introduced into the routine immunisation schedule last September.
The number of MenB cases in infants aged less than one – the age group most likely to be affected by MenB – fell by 42%, according to PHE figures.
Disease rates in vaccinated children were found to be less than one fifth of the rate in unvaccinated infants.
PHE says that only 37 cases have been recorded in the eligible age group since the programme began, compared with an average of 74 cases in the same period from the previous four years.
PHE’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay, described the findings as ‘great news’.
She said: ‘MenB is a rare, but terrible disease. It’s cut many lives short and can leave children maimed for life, causing devastation for their families. Now we know this vaccine can and will save lives and prevent life-long disability.
‘The programme is still in its early days, so we will be monitoring the longer-term impact of the vaccine through our surveillance programme. But the benefit of the vaccine is clear. We hope countries around the world looking at these results will consider introducing similar vaccination programmes, hopefully saving the lives of many, many children.’
Meningitis Now chief executive Liz Brown has renewed the charity’s call for the Government to extend the vaccine to the remaining 2.1 million children under five who ‘remain at risk’.
‘This vaccine will save numerous lives, but there are still many types of meningitis which it does not protect against. Children born before May last year remain unprotected and are at increased risk of catching this deadly and devastating disease up to the age of 5.’