Scotland

Meningitis B vaccine deal agreed

Vaccination Image copyright Thinkstock

Health Secretary Shona Robison has confirmed that a vaccine for meningitis B will be made available for babies in Scotland.

It follows a deal made by the UK government on behalf of the devolved governments with the drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

Negotiations over the cost of the vaccine had gone on for months.

The delay in availability angered campaigners who said children's lives had been put at risk.

It is likely the vaccine will be available in Scotland from September.

The announcement follows lengthy discussions between the UK government with another drugs supplier - Novartis - which used to own the vaccine, called Bexsero.

GSK acquired the vaccine from Novartis, which resulted in the price of the vaccine being reduced and the deal being struck, UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Health advisers recommended a year ago that the vaccination be made available to all babies in the UK.

'Routine immunisation'

Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that particularly affects children under the age of one.

It commonly affects children under five years of age, and is also common among teenagers aged 15 to 19.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "The Scottish government has been consistent in its support for the introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero.

"We will now work to roll out the vaccination programme as quickly as possible.

"The Meningitis B vaccine will now form part of the routine childhood immunisation programme in Scotland, underlining our commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our children."


Calum's story

Calum MacLeod awoke in the middle of the night with a bad headache, recalls his mother Kim.

Just four hours later he was critically ill on a ventilator in Yorkhill hospital, Glasgow, as the meningitis bacteria spread around his body. Sadly, doctors weren't able to save the 12-year-old, who died in October 2007.

Image caption Calum MacLeod died of meningitis B in October 2007

Kim says she is "delighted and relieved" that the vaccine will soon be available in Scotland, though she admits it has taken years of campaigning.

She added: "Calum was a fun-loving, happy boy who loved company.

"Anything that can prevent other families from going through what we have, anything that can fight against this disease, is great.

"It will be eight years this year since Calum died and it's been a long journey for us as a family.

"If the vaccine had been available when he was a baby, we might never have been in this position."


The vaccination will be given in three doses at two, four and 12 months, with all babies in Scotland aged two months at the point of introduction being eligible.

There are about 1,870 cases of the infection each year in the UK.

Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, confusion, vomiting and headaches.

'Step forward'

Most children will make a full recovery with early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, although it is fatal in one in 10 cases.

About one in four of those who survive is left with long-term problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

Sue Davie, chief executive of the charity Meningitis Now, said: "To know that babies will be protected against MenB is fantastic and another great step forward in our fight against meningitis."

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