The European Commission approved Novartis' Bexsero meningitis B vaccine for use in individuals two months of age and older this week.
"This meningitis B vaccine is the most important medical breakthrough in the 30 years since I lost my son to the disease," Meningitis UK Founder Steve Dayman said. "It could save thousands of lives and prevent other parents suffering the same tragedy. The vaccine must be made widely available through the immunization schedule as soon as possible - any delay could mean lives lost."
Meningitis B is a bacterial infection and is the leading cause of meningitis in Europe, particularly in infants. The disease, which is considered rare, affects healthy people rapidly and without warning. Symptoms of meningitis B resemble the flu, which makes it easily misdiagnosed in its early stages. Approximately one in 10 patients who contract the disease will die as a result, while one in five survivors will suffer from life-long disabilities, including brain damage, hearing impairment or limb loss.
"Each year, thousands of parents see their children die or left with severe disabilities as a result of this devastating disease. Through the combined efforts of many people over two decades, we are closer than ever to seeing an end to this suffering," Andrin Oswald, the division head of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, said. "Our vision is a world without meningitis, and our priority is to work with decision makers across Europe to ensure there is broad and timely access to vaccination."
EU member states, following this week's announcement, will now evaluate Bexsero for potential inclusion into national immunization programs and, where relevant, reimbursement schemes.
Novartis has already started to engage with government interested in the early adoption of the vaccine.