Preliminary data from the world’s first national meningitis B immunization program with Bexsero, launched one year ago in the UK, shows the estimated effectiveness of the vaccine at 83 percent against any meningitis B strain and 94 percent against vaccine preventable strains, for all children receiving the first two of three recommended doses. Reported cases of the disease have dropped 50 percent in the vaccine-eligible population in the first ten months of the program, compared to the average number of cases over the last four years. These data were presented today by Public Health England (PHE) at the International Pathogenic Neisseria Conference (IPNC) in Manchester, UK.

 Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC
Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC

Uptake of the vaccine in the UK national immunization program is high. In more than 600,000 infants aged 0-1 year old, eligible for the vaccine, more than 90 percent received two doses.

Dr. Thomas Breuer, Chief Medical Officer, GSK Vaccines commented: “We are extremely encouraged by the initial results of the UK program, which demonstrate 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 percent 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 program is the first such program for the prevention of meningitis B in the world. Infants are immunized at two and four 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 immunization. The data presented today 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 program 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 program 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 septicemia 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.”