A commentary co-written by University of Minnesota School of Public Health assistant professor Dr. Nicole Basta says a U.K. study of the 4CMenB meningitis-B (MenB) vaccine confirms its ability to prevent the disease under real-world conditions among a high-risk group. The U.K. became the first country to introduce 4CMenB into a national infant immunization program in September 2015, and the study evaluates the effectiveness of the vaccine during the first 10 months of the campaign.
[Photo: Dr. Nicole Basta]
“The results are highly encouraging and suggest that MenB vaccines could be the cornerstone of public health efforts to prevent meningitis,” said Dr. Basta, whose previous study of the first use of 4CMenB in the U.S raised questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness against strains that did not match the vaccine.
The commentary appeared in The Lancet.
“We now have clear evidence that 4CMenB is highly effective in preventing MenB among infants,” said Dr. Basta. “The U.K. found a 50 percent reduction in meningococcal disease cases regardless of the MenB strain. This means that the vaccination program has significantly reduced the suffering caused by the disease better than any other public health interventions.”
The results come from a nationwide vaccination campaign that produced very high uptake among infants in the first 10 months of the program, with 95.5 percent receiving the first dose and 88.6 percent receiving both doses by six months of age.
“This alone is a major public health success,” said Dr. Basta.
Dr. Basta says the results are important for meningitis prevention efforts around the globe.
In the U.S., recommendations are for teens and adults to receive the MenB vaccine rather than infants. Dr. Basta says the findings are good news for combating the disease in America because adults usually have a stronger protective response to vaccines, and so adults may benefit similarly or even more so than the infants in the U.K. study.
“Additionally, many other countries have been cautious about introducing MenB vaccines, in part due to questions about the breadth and duration of protection, and the cost-effectiveness of programs,” said Dr. Basta. “Evidence of high vaccine effectiveness, along with high vaccine uptake, should be reassuring to health authorities who are considering whether to introduce MenB vaccine programs.”
Dr. Basta says the study highlights the key role epidemiologic studies play in evaluating vaccines by looking at how well vaccines work in target populations.
For 4CMenB, this means that if the reductions observed in the U.K. study prove to be sustained over time and replicated in other settings, then it could show that MenB vaccines may have a vital role in reducing the threat of the disease — and even possibly eliminating it in the future.