Preliminary data from the world’s first national meningitis B immunization programme with Bexsero, launched one year ago in the UK, shows the estimated effectiveness of the vaccine at 83% against any meningitis B strain and 94% against vaccine preventable strains, for all children receiving the first two of three recommended doses.
Reported cases of the potentially life-threatening disease have dropped 50% in the vaccine-eligible population in the first 10 months of the programme, compared with the average number of cases during the last 4 years.
Uptake of the vaccine in the UK national immunization programme is high. In more than 600,000 infants aged 0-1 year old, eligible for the vaccine, more than 90% received two doses.
Dr Thomas Breuer, Chief Medical Officer, GSK Vaccines, commented: “We are extremely encouraged by the initial results of the UK programme, which demonstrates that Bexsero helps to protect babies in the UK from this often life-threatening disease. The data substantially advance our understanding of the impact of meningitis B vaccines in a real world setting and may help inform public health authorities around the world about their future use. The report shared provides reassurance to parents who have already vaccinated their children or wish to help protect their children from meningitis B in the future.”
Invasive meningococcal B disease is the leading cause of life-threatening meningitis in the industrialized world. Although not common, invasive meningococcal B disease develops rapidly, typically amongst previously healthy children and adolescents, and results in high morbidity and mortality.
Initial symptoms can often resemble flu, making it difficult to diagnose. About one in 10 of those who contract the disease will die, even with appropriate treatment. Additionally, up to 20% of those who survive bacterial meningitis may suffer a major physical or neurological disability (limb loss, hearing loss or seizures).
Bexsero is currently the only meningococcal B vaccine licensed in Europe. The UK national immunization programme is the first such programme for the prevention of meningitis B in the world.
Infants are immunized at 2 and 4 months of age, with a booster dose at 12 months, outside of the licensed dosing schedule, but in line with recommendations issued by the UK advisory body on immunisation. Data presented at the International Pathogenic Neisseria Conference (IPNC) in Manchester, UK, demonstrate the immediate impact on meningococcal B disease rates in the eligible population following two doses of the vaccine. More data are expected as the first infants from the programme receive their booster dose later this year.
Linda Glennie, Head of Research at the Meningitis Research Foundation, said, “It is great to see this early evidence that the national meningitis B immunization programme for children under age one is effective. We hope that other countries burdened by meningitis B will now consider protecting their people from this deadly disease. Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours, and leave a substantial number of survivors with life-changing after-effects. We will continue to gather evidence that will unlock expertise about meningitis B vaccination.”
Incidence of meningitis B is highest in infants under one year old and the ultimate goal of meningococcal vaccination is to reduce the total burden of disease. The data presented at IPNC shows this is now happening in the UK. GSK looks forward to further analyses on the vaccine’s effectiveness during the coming months and years.