It has been announced that the NHS will not be rolling out a vaccine for Meningitis B, claiming that the cost of the vaccine outweighs the amount of lives it will save. In the words of the Government’s advisers on immunisation “it is highly unlikely to be cost effective”. Tell that to the parents who feel that once again money takes precedence of importance over lives. As one mother pointed out, surely if it just saves one or two children’s lives it will be worth it.
Meningitis B is one of the most dreaded of children’s illnesses. It affects almost 2000 people every year in the UK, mostly children, teenagers and babies. One in 10 dies from the infection, whilst many others lose extremities such as toes, fingers and hands due to septicaemia, the blood poisoning that the Men B triggers. The new Bexsero vaccine is said to be effective against 73% of the Men B causing bacteria, but for the government this is not enough.
JCVI, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have said that it is highly unlikely the vaccine will be cost effective, and that key data pertaining to its effectiveness is still missing. Novartis, the manufacturers, have said that this vaccine has been in development for 20 years, and in January was licensed by the EU following clinical trials involving 8000 people.
The JCVI are calling for more evidence on both the vaccines cost effectiveness and its effectiveness to prevent Men B to be presented by September. They have also said that once they have received this information they will be making a final recommendation.
Understandably, the various meningitis charities which have been campaigning for the Bexsero vaccine to be available to all children as a routine inoculation have expressed their frustration and disappointment at this decision.