Meningitis B vaccine will be available within months
A new vaccine which protects against Meningitis B will be on the market in Europe by the end of 2011, pharmaceutical company Novartis says.
The Swiss pharma company has manufactured the vaccine, known as 4CMenB, which offers 80 percent protection against the bacterial infection.
The company believes that the vaccine could now virtually eliminate Meningitis B; an illness which causes meningococcal disease.
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In the UK alone there are thought to be 1,600 cases of meningococcal disease annually and around 120 deaths each year as a result.
In 1999 a vaccine against Meningitis C was introduced in the UK and health officials say it has prevented over 1000 deaths and the illness has almost been eradicated.
It is thought that Meningitis B now accounts for the remaining 90 percent of cases of the disease, as it is a more common strain.
The new 4CMenB vaccine performed well in series of three trials in which it was tested on more than 3000 children including infants, toddlers and adolescents.
The vaccine that is available for Meningitis C costs around £23 for ‘full immunity’ against the disease.
Although the Meningitis B vaccine took a long longer to produce than its predecessor, officials say it was at no extra cost.
The Meningitis disease comes with only a 10 percent mortality rate and can also cause permanent disabilities in those that survive it.
Approximately one in 10 people carry the meningitis bacteria in their nose and throats without ever developing a full-blown case of the illness.
However, the bacteria can sometimes erupt and within minutes it can cause the membrane which surrounds the brain to become inflamed, potentially resulting in death within just a few hours if it enters the blood stream.
Novartis are expecting the European Medicines Agency to give them a licence for the vaccine by the end of this year.