Meningitis B infant vaccination programme shows 75% drop in cases over three years

Child sat on a bench playing with blocks to show Meningitis B infant vaccination programme shows 75% drop in cases over three years

Meningitis B infant vaccination programme shows 75% drop in cases over three years, these are the results of one of two independent meningitis B studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine. They demonstrate the real-world impact of GSK’s Bexsero vaccine in reducing disease in infants and underscore the need for individual protection among adolescents.

First: a study from the UK showed impact data from the first national infant immunisation programme with Bexsero in the world. According to Public Health England, over a three-year period the total number of meningitis B cases dropped 75%. These impact results even included cases caused by strains not predicted to be covered by Bexsero.

Second: results of the largest-ever study of adolescent carriage of meningococcal bacteria, ‘B Part of It’, showed reduction in number of cases among the trial population in South Australia but no effect on the carriage of bacteria in the nose or throat, a prerequisite of impacting transmission. This reinforces the need for vaccination of vulnerable individuals, particularly infants and adolescents, in order to help protect against meningococcal disease.

Starting in September 2015, UK infants have been offered the meningitis B vaccine at two and four months of age, followed by a booster at the age of one year, as part of the routine national immunisation programme. Public Health England reported the programme resulted in sustained protection lasting at least two years after the final booster at 12 months. This is crucial because the highest burden of MenB disease in England and many other countries is during the first three to five years of life. GSK will use these data to file a label update.

The results showed an estimated reduction of 277 cases since the beginning of the programme. But in children who were not eligible for the vaccine, the study showed no decrease in MenB disease.

In South Australia, more than 34,000 students in their 10th, 11th and 12th year of high school participated in the ‘B Part of It’ large-scale meningitis B vaccination study. Even though the study did not find vaccination to reduce nasopharyngeal carriage of Neisseria meningitidis, there was a reduction in the number of cases. After the study, South Australia implemented a meningitis B vaccination programme for both infants and adolescents.

Advocates hope that the real-world impact of both studies, combined with parental confidence shown by high participation rates (more than 90% of all UK infants got the first two doses and the participation rate of students in South Australia was also high), will give encouragement to public health authorities around the world.

Invasive meningococcal B disease develops rapidly, even in previously healthy infants, young children and adolescents. Initial symptoms of meningococcal disease 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 from major physical or neurological disabilities, for example limb loss, hearing loss or seizures.

Bexsero is currently the only meningococcal B vaccine licensed in Europe for children under 10 years old; the UK infant immunisation programme is specifically aimed at the prevention of meningitis B.