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Medical Lawyers Concerned That More Lives Will Be Lost

JCVI Delays Introduction Of Meningitis B Vaccine


By Helen MacGregor

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell are calling on the government to introduce the Meningitis B vaccine as soon as possible so lives can be saved from the devastating disease. 

The call comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who advises the UK health department on immunisation, have announced that they need more evidence before they can reach a conclusion on whether to advise introducing the vaccine in the UK.  

Meningococcus B causes life threatening septicaemia and meningitis. The infection is rapidly progressive and even with the best treatment it can cause severe injuries such as limb loss, hearing loss, brain damage and even death.

Irwin Mitchell medical law expert Anita Jewitt, who recently represented a child who lost both of her arms and legs after she contracted Meningococcus B, said: “Although the new vaccine will not be effective against every Meningococcus B strain, it is felt that many cases will be prevented.

“Approximately every week in the UK two people will lose their lives to this disease. Urgent action is needed by the government to introduce this vaccine as quickly as possible.

“At Irwin Mitchell we see firsthand the devastating after effects of this disease – for patients and the financial implications for the NHS – and we would strongly urge the government to introduce the vaccine as soon as possible. This vaccine, which was licensed for use in the UK recently, has already taken over twenty years to develop and it would be a tragedy for all that hard work to be lost at this late stage.”

Irwin Mitchell supports the work of the Meningitis Trust, and is encouraging members of the public and health professionals to sign the Trust’s ‘Beat it Now!’ campaign and write to their MP, particularly those that have a story to share about their experience of meningitis. More information can be found at www.beat-it-now.org
Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, said: “This (the JCVI’s decision) is extremely disappointing news after all of our supporters’ and our hard work over decades to introduce a vaccine.

“JCVI has invited the charity, as the voice for those affected by meningitis, to respond to its interim statement by Tuesday 3 September. It will consider this response and the advice of its meningococcal sub-committee at a meeting on 2 October, before finalising its advice and publishing its position statement.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to respond and press our case. We understand the committee’s concerns about impact and cost, but we believe this vaccine is safe and we know it will save lives. The more we delay the more risk there is of lives being lost.

“Help us to raise the funds we need for this fight and to continue to provide support to all those who will continue to be affected by meningitis before the vaccine is introduced .In the meantime, I would urge everyone to remain vigilant to the signs and symptoms.”

Professor Simon Kroll, a Paediatrician and Honorary Medical Director of the Meningitis Trust, said: “The important thing now is to maintain the pace that has built up this year, since the vaccine received approval by the European Medicines Agency in January. 

“The JCVI have highlighted a need for further data that can only be obtained from population-based studies, and a way must be found to ensure that this is done quickly. 

“A national study to evaluate the vaccine following its introduction on a population-wide basis would meet the needs for data acquisition while ensuring that the population is protected without delay.”

Meningitis Fact Box                        

• Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
• The disease can kill in four hours.
• Classic symptoms include a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light.
• Symptoms of septicaemia (blood poisoning) include leg pain, cold hands and feet, and a rash.
• Around 3,400* people contract bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK each year. Up to 500,000 people in the UK have had meningitis.
• 1 in 10 people die and 1 in 3 are left with permanent disabilities such as limb loss, blindness, deafness or brain damage.
• It can affect anyone, of any age, but babies, children under 5, young people aged 14-24 and the elderly are most at risk.
• Every week, six families face the traumatic loss of a loved one to meningitis.
• In the past 20 years, vaccines have been developed to protect against Hib, Meningitis C and Pneumococcal Meningitis but people still aren’t fully protected against all forms. 
• It is important to trust your instincts. If you suspect something is wrong, seek medical help immediately.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence claims