New hope for Meningitis B vaccine for young children

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The Government is considering new evidence that supports the introduction of a vaccine to protect children against Meningitis B.


It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a Department of Health independent departmental expert committee, concluded that 'additional analyses' of the cost-effectiveness of the vaccination and its potential impact on the disease were required.

The decision, published in the minutes of a meeting held by the committee last month, has given meningitis-focused campaign groups hope that some 1,800 annual cases of the disease among children in the UK could be prevented.

In July, the JCVI recommended against introducing the Bexsero® vaccination, because it said it would not be cost-effective. The European Commission licensed the vaccine in January.

The Meningitis Research Foundation’s (MRF) head of research and medical information, Linda Glennie, said she hoped research and evidence submitted to the JCVI by MRF and other organisations would be enough to persuade the committee.

'We’re very hopeful this will make a difference but we’re not convinced we’ve got nothing to worry about,' she said. 'We’re going to have to keep the campaigning up and keep asking questions of the committee.'

'When you’re looking at introducing a vaccine, you have to consider whether it will be cost-effective and how effective it’s likely to be against the disease.

'There are a lot of questions when you try to do an economic analysis, such as how much does it cost the NHS and how does it affect the lives of people that have it. These are the things that we particularly felt had been underestimated.'

MRF estimates that between five and ten percent of children who contract Meningitis B will die from it. About half of cases are among younger children aged under-five, and three per cent may end with a child having a limb amputated.

Ms Glennie suggested if the committee decided to approve the vaccination, it was unlikely to be introduced until at least late 2014.

She said, 'To immunise a whole birth cohort, around 800,000, you need enough product available for all the babies, and they may also decide to have a catch-up campaign for young children.'

Charity Meningitis Now has led a campaign for the vaccination’s introduction since July. Last month, the Meningitis B: Beat it NOW! Campaign group delivered a petition of 20,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street backing the call.

Meningitis Now executive founder Steve Dayman, who lost his son to meningitis in 1982, said the committee’s decision needed urgent attention before more lives were lost.

'As we head into winter, cases of meningitis will increase and we are concerned that time lost is lives lost, 'he said.

'Meningitis is the disease parents fear most and this vaccine is expected to wipe out at least 73% of the most common form of bacterial meningitis in the UK.'

The committee is expected to report again in February 2014 after considering the evidence further.

Last month, a new global campaign to highlight the impact of Meningitis B on children and their families was launched.

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