Costs And Lack Of Supply Means Children Will Miss Out On Meningitis B Vaccine


Oliver Wicks, Press Officer | 0114 274 4649

Medical negligence experts at Irwin Mitchell have reacted with disappointment after the Government rejected calls for all children to be given the meningitis B jab.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) refused to extend the meningitis B programme to all children under two, advising that to do so could put current stocks of the vaccine at risk.

In minutes available from the meeting, the conclusion was “the Committee was acutely aware of the fact that wider use of Bexsero® in the UK could potentially prevent further tragic losses of life from meningococcal disease in childhood, and that there was significant public opinion supporting such use”.

The committee advised that a programme to vaccinate children aged 12-23 months “could” be cost effective, albeit at a price which was likely lower than determined for the routine programme.

However, the committee noted that there was “unlikely to be any vaccine available to deliver any programme to those aged 12 to 23 months of age before the 2016/2017 meningococcal season”.

The Committee was also concerned about the ”serious risks of the infant programme” that the use of Public Health England’s buffer stock could present.

In light of these concerns, the Committee agreed that they could not advise the Department of Health to consider such a catch-up programme. It was concluded that it was unlikely to be cost-effective to vaccinate older children, up to 4 and 11 years of age.

An online petition became the most signed in parliamentary history at the time, receiving over 820,000 signatures.

The Government announced in March that it would not support the meningitis B vaccine being given to all children, saying it would not be cost-effective for anyone over the age of 1 to get the vaccine.

The vaccine is currently available on the NHS for babies aged two months, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. Any parents who wish to have older children vaccinated must pay privately.

Liz Brown CEO at Meningitis Now said: “We are hugely disappointed by the decision, but will continue to campaign passionately for all children under the age of 5 to receive this lifesaving vaccine.

“We stand for the many thousands of families who are unable to protect their children from this devastating disease because they cannot afford to buy the vaccine privately. We will continue to fight against a system that discriminates against the health of the nation’s children on an ability to pay basis.

“I would ask the new Prime Minister, Mrs May, to honour her words from Monday, when she said “We need a bold, new, positive vision for the future — a vision of a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us" and so to intervene on behalf of the 823,000 people who made their views on protecting the nation’s children very clear indeed.

 “Meningitis Now has a legacy of campaigning for the introduction of lifesaving vaccines through the NHS and has played a key role in working with Governments behind the introduction of five meningitis vaccines in the past two decades.

“We are undeterred and will continue to fight for all at risk children under the age of 5, to receive this lifesaving vaccine.”

Anita Jewitt, a leading medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, is concerned by the decision and the impact it could have on the lives of young children.

Expert Opinion
“Having seen first-hand from our clients the devastating after effects of this disease, we have long held the view that all children, particularly under 5 year olds, should be vaccinated.

“The tragic death of two year old Faye Burdett highlighted how serious and devastating a disease this can be.

“Clearly difficult decisions are being made here, but this feels like one that will have serious and potentially tragic consequences for families who simply cannot afford to purchase the jab privately.

“A disappointing aspect is the decision to reject a catch-up programme to capture all under-twos. This is when children are most at risk of infection and yet despite the committee noting that this could be cost effective, it appears to have been rejected because it would place too much of a strain on current stocks to be sustainable.

“Early diagnosis and treatment is absolutely vital for the chances of survival and recovery in young people. Meningitis can have serious and long-term implications for those affected, with many children who develop the disease suffering life-changing injuries such as brain damage and limb loss.

We would urge parents and doctors to continue to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis because it is vital to act quickly – every minute counts.”
Anita Jewitt, Partner