British medical authorities have claimed that till the end of this decade, they will be the first country to remove off Meningitis as a vaccine is under research.
Leads to around 120 deaths and leaves another 400 with life-long disabilities including brain damage, amputations and blindness. A panel of scientific advisers had recommended in October 2013 that the vaccine should not be introduced as it was not deemed cost-effective.
But ministers told the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation to carry out another assessment and this concluded last March that it should be offered.
The Government then spent almost a year negotiating with drugs manufacturers trying to agree a cheaper price. On Saturday, the Mail highlighted how the jab was being denied to babies because of the cost row.
Nearly 800,000 babies each year would be eligible for the jab at an average annual cost of £16million.
Charities estimate the NHS would spend around £3million treating and caring for just one child who has survived meningitis but is left with life-long disabilities.
GPs would give the injection to babies from the age of two months, with boosters at four months and 12 months.
He said ministers had had a ‘stand-off’ with Novartis, which owned the vaccine, ‘for the best part of a year’ as it failed to agree a cheaper price. The jab, called Bexsero, has since been bought by GlaxoSmithKline, which has agreed a lower cost.
Sue Davie, of the charity Meningitis Now, said: ‘To know that babies will be protected is fantastic and another great step forward in our fight against meningitis.’
Chris Head, of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: ‘We are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this devastating disease is within sight, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in meningitis prevention.’
Dr David Elliman, a consultant in Community Child Health at the Whittington Health NHS Trust, North London, said: ‘It is great news. The vaccine will mean the numbers of children suffering this terrible illness will be further reduced.’
Meningitis is an infection of the outside layer of cells surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing inflammation and damage. It can kill within hours and is the most common cause of death by infectious disease in childhood.