In a move described as the most important breakthrough in 30 years, a vaccine has been developed that could save thousands of lives at risk from meningitis B.
The jab, called Bexsero, has been licensed for use in babies from the age of two months and offers protection against the majority of meningitis B strains that occur in the UK.
Up to 2,000 people are infected with meningitis B each year in the UK and one in 10 will die despite receiving prompt medical treatment. A further one in four will suffer lifelong disability as a result of the brain disease.
The vaccine could soon be available privately. Government advisers have yet to decide if it should be introduced into the free NHS childhood vaccination programme.
Meningitis is parents' most feared disease because it strikes otherwise healthy children, who can die within hours.
Steve Dayman, founder of the charity Meningitis UK, who lost his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia, said: "This ground-breaking vaccine is the most important development since I lost my son to meningitis 30 years ago.
"The news is the most significant step forward in the fight I have ever heard.
The Government must introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the immunisation schedule as soon as possible – it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering. Any delay means lives will be lost.
"The last major meningitis vaccine took five years to be introduced – we cannot wait that long again. "Cost shouldn't be a barrier for this vaccine either – you cannot put a price on life.
"Please support our Beat it Now campaign. Together we can end the heartache caused by Meningitis B."
There are already vaccines against the other major causes of meningitis, Hib and meningitis C, which saw substantial reductions in deaths and disability from the disease.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Meningitis is a worry for many parents so we're pleased that a meningococcal B vaccine has now been licensed. Our independent group of vaccination experts, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), is currently looking at the use of this vaccine and will provide advice in due course."
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