The Department of Health (DoH) has accepted the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the body that advises Government on immunisation, to offer children from two months old a vaccine against Meningitis B.
However the DoH has made clear that its decision is subject to the cost of the vaccination and its ‘value for money’.
The Department will now enter into negotiations with vaccine company Novartis to agree a price, before introducing it on the NHS.
It comes after the JCVI twice delayed a decision last year due to introduce the vaccination because of a lack of evidence of it being cost effective.
The JCVI’s U-turn decision followed months of campaigning and lobbying by the charity Meningitis Now, including a petition of 36,500 signatures calling for the vaccine to be included as part of the NHS Childhood Vaccination programme.
Meningitis Now also joined with the International Confederation of Meningitis Organisations and renowned photographer Anne Geddes last year to launch a global campaign to highlight the impact of meningitis on children and their families.
According to campaigners, Meningitis B is the commonest cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia, the leading causes of death from infectious disease in children under five in this country. Children under one are at greatest risk.
Those who survive are likely to suffer long-term disabilities, including brain damage, amputations and hearing loss, leaving them requiring additional support.
Founder of Meningitis Now Steve Dayman said, ‘This is the most monumental announcement in the fight against the disease in the 31 years I have campaigned to eradicate meningitis. It is the decision we’ve pushed for, to have the Meningitis B vaccine given free to all infants. There is no doubt that it will save thousands of lives and spare survivors and their families the pain of living with life-changing after-effects. We thank our supporters for their determined campaigning and the JCVI for listening to our arguments on the true burden of this disease.’
The charity’s chief executive Sue Davie said, ‘We won’t celebrate until the first youngster receives the vaccine for free and we urge the Department of Health and vaccine company to conclude negotiations quickly – time lost is lives lost. While this is a fantastic leap forward, there is still much work to do because there still aren’t vaccines for all forms of meningitis. We all must remain vigilant to the disease’s symptoms and those affected must get the support they need.’