Meningococcal disease remains one of the most feared infectious diseases worldwide because of its sudden onset, rapid progression and high case fatality rates, while survivors are often left with severe long-term sequelae. Young children have the highest incidence of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), and nearly all cases in the UK, as in most of Europe and many other industrialised countries, are due to group B meningococci (MenB). The licensure of a broad-coverage, recombinant protein-based MenB vaccine (4CMenB) in 2013 was, therefore, heralded a major breakthrough in the fight against IMD. This vaccine was, however, licensed on immunogenicity and reactogenicity studies only, raising uncertainties about field effectiveness, long-term safety and antibody persistence. In 2015, the UK became the first country to implement 4CMenB into the national infant immunisation schedule and, since then, several countries have followed suit. Seven years after licensure, a wealth of real-world data has emerged to confirm 4CMenB effectiveness, along with large-scale safety data, duration of protection in different age groups, successful strategies to reduce vaccine reactogenicity, impact on carriage in adolescents and the potential for 4CMenB to protect against other meningococcal serogroups and against gonorrhoea. A number of questions, however, remain unanswered, including the investigation and management of vaccine-associated fever in infants, as well as disease severity and assessment of breakthrough cases in immunised children. Increasing use of 4CMenB will provide answers in due course. We now have vaccines against all the major serogroups causing IMD worldwide. Next-generation and combination vaccines against multiple serogroups look very promising.
- infectious diseases
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