Thousands of lives could be saved by a new vaccine which can protect children against nearly twice as many strains of meningitis.
The new jab, which is being launched on the NHS, protects against 13 variants of the condition rather than the seven previously conquered.
The UK is one of the first countries in the world to introduce Prevenar 13 as part of the NHS childhood immunisation programme.
Children will be better able to stave off the most deadly form of bacterial meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, once they have been vaccinated.
One in five cases of bacterial meningitis leads to death while 25% of those who survive are left with serious effects including brain damage, hearing and sight loss.
Around 300 people die from bacterial meningitis each year in the UK and it affects around 3,000 people in total.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “The programme has been very successful in protecting children against serious diseases, and has drastically reduced instances of illnesses and death.”
Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said: “Parents do not need to take any action, except continuing to have their children vaccinated as normal – every day counts when it comes to protecting children against these diseases.”
Copyright Press Association 2010
NHS childhood immunisation programme