Cases of meningitis B among young children have fallen by nearly two thirds since a vaccine was introduced, a major study has found.
Experts last night hailed the finding as proof of the power of vaccination and a victory for campaigners.
Meningitis strikes almost without warning, killing or maiming hundreds each year, with babies and pre-school children most at risk.
A stock image shows a child being vaccinated. Cases of meningitis B among young children have fallen by nearly two thirds since a vaccine was introduced, a major study has found
The condition, which causes inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, strikes so quickly that it is often too late to treat effectively by the time it is spotted.
The new study, published last night in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows 277 cases of meningitis B were avoided in the first three years after the vaccine was introduced in England in September 2015.
Only 169 cases were recorded between 2015 and 2018 among pre-school children eligible for the vaccine – a 62 per cent fall on an expected 446 cases.
Primary school teacher Georgie Hall who is seven months pregnant pictured with a picture of her son Oliver and one of his cuddly toys outside Suffolk Coroner’s Court where an inquest is being held into how he died of sepsis linked to meningitis
Among babies under the age of one there were only 44 cases in 2018 – the lowest level since records began. The MenB vaccine was introduced in Britain – the first country in the world to get the jab – after a series of stories by the Mail highlighted concerns about the lack of protection against the condition.
It is offered as three injections – one at two months, a second at four months and a final booster at 12 months. But despite the success of the vaccination programme, uptake of the MenB vaccine is slipping.
While 92 per cent of parents take their children for their first two jabs, this drops to 88 per cent for the one-year booster. The Mail is campaigning to improve the uptake of all childhood immunisations, which are falling after years of misinformation, online ‘antivaxx’ myths and growing apathy.
Plea to parents over jab that may have saved boy of six
Oliver Hall, six, of Halesworth, Suffolk, who died of meningitis in October 2017 after medics initially failed to diagnose the condition
A grieving mother last night urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
Two years ago, Ollie Hall, six, died from meningitis B after getting a headache which rapidly got worse.
His death came less than 24 hours after his family’s growing concerns were repeatedly brushed aside by doctors and paramedics.
Tragically, the little boy could have been saved if he had received the MenB vaccination.
He was not eligible to get the jab on the NHS as he was too old when it was introduced in September 2015. However, he could have been given it privately.
Unfortunately, his parents, teacher Georgie Hall, 40, and music instructor Bryan, 45, had never heard of the jab.
Mrs Hall, from Suffolk, who has two other children, said: ‘Take the opportunity that I didn’t have and get your children protected. It’s too late for me – but it’s not too late for others.’
Dr Shamez Ladhani, the consultant epidemiologist at Public Health England who led the study, said: ‘It is vital that children receive all available vaccines on time to provide the best protection at the age when they are at highest risk.
‘The implementation of the MenB vaccine in 2015 is a great success, it is already saving lives and means fewer parents and young children will experience this devastating illness.’
Dr Tom Nutt, of the Meningitis Now charity, praised the Mail for ‘doing so much to cut through the misinformation surrounding vaccination’. He said: ‘This latest news shows vaccines save lives. I would urge parents to ensure their children receive all three of the MenB vaccinations.
‘If they have concerns, they should talk with their GP and make informed decisions based on the evidence that this report provides and not on social media-based propaganda.’