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Meningitis B vaccine hope for infants after jab U-turn

INFANTS in Scotland are to be immunised against a second potentially deadly strain of meningitis if costs for the new vaccine can be agreed.

The Scottish Government said it would introduce the Meningococcal B jab to its childhood immunisation programme as soon as possible after the Department of Health's advisory body on vaccines agreed to adopt the Novartis-manufactured Bexsero vaccine after rejecting it last year.

Babies under one year of age are most at risk of meningitis B and the number of cases peak at around five or six months of age. The jab would be given to infants aged two months, alongside the existing vaccine against strain C of the disease which is given to infants initially with a booster again when they turn 14.

Meningitis, caused by a bacteria than infects the lining of the brain, is fatal in about one in 10 cases and can lead to long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness and epilepsy.

Cases peak among under threes and again among teenagers aged 15 to 19.

Clinicians had written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to adopt the MenB vaccine to protect youngsters against a second strain of the disease.

Yesterday the Department of Health said it had accepted the calls.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor John Watson said: "We will now be working closely with Novartis in the coming months and, if negotiations are successful, we hope to work with the other UK health departments to introduce a vaccine to prevent meningitis B as quickly as possible."

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: "This disease can be devastating for children and their families, and I'm very keen that we take the necessary steps to tackle its effects."

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