The NHS is planning to roll out a life-saving vaccine against meningitis B in the UK – provided a deal can be reached with manufacturers.
The move is a Government U-turn and comes amid growing pressure from charities and health experts.
Last year the Department of Health’s advisory body – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), rejected the Bexsero vaccine.
But now the JCVI says it will adopt the Bexsero vaccine.
UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt received a letter from health experts asking him to adopt the vaccine as a way of protecting young children in particular from the disease.
A JCVI statement said the vaccine would be introduced “subject to it being made available by the manufacturer at a cost-effective price”.
The statement said: “The Department of Health will start negotiations with Novartis, which produces the only licensed vaccine, as soon as possible.
“The JCVI has recommended adding the vaccination to the primary childhood programme, meaning that, if plans progress, infants will be immunised starting at two months of age.
“The JCVI has also advised that the vaccine is further extended to three and four-month-olds as a one-off catch-up programme when it is introduced.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor John Watson said: “Infants 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.
“With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most make a full recovery.
“But it is fatal in about one in 10 cases and can lead to long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.”
Meningitis UK say that the UK has one of the highest meningitis B incidence rates in the world, affecting nearly 2,000 people each year.
The organization said that if the plan had been implemented when the vaccine was licensed for use in January 2013, at least 200 people could have been saved from death or disability.