Revolutionary meningitis B vaccine available – but only privately.
The UK’s first lifesaving vaccine for Meningitis B, the most common form of the disease in the UK, is now available – but only privately for hundreds of pounds, making it beyond most people’s means.
Meningitis Now, the UK’s largest meningitis charity, welcomes today’s news, but has always argued that every baby should have it free on the NHS, instead of it only being available to those with money.
Bexsero, the first Meningitis B vaccine to be licensed for use in the UK, will save thousands of lives and spare many from life-changing after-effects such as limb loss, brain damage and epilepsy.
The UK has one of the highest Meningitis B incidence rates in the world – affecting an average of 1,870 people each year and kills in hours. Anyone can get the strain, with one in 10 people affected dying and one in three survivors suffering after-effects, and it kills more children under five than any other infectious disease in the UK.
Developers, pharmaceutical giant Novartis cannot discuss the price it is offering to private clinics, GP and medical services due to commercial sensitivity, but the NHS list price is £75 per dose.
But youngsters will need between two and four doses, depending on age. It is unclear when the Government will make a final decision on whether the broad-range vaccine, for babies from two months, should be on the NHS.
Earlier this year, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS had a legal duty to reduce health inequality.Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched his fight against the deadly disease after losing his baby Spencer to meningitis in 1982, said: “The availability of the lifesaving vaccine in the UK is a watershed moment in the fight against the deadly disease. The vaccine is one of the most significant leaps forward in the fight – it’s taken decades to develop and stands to save thousands of lives and spare so much misery.
“We welcome that it is now available privately, but believe every parent should have the choice and chance to vaccinate their baby – not just those with means. Universal vaccination is the best way to stop the disease.
“We must also consider herd immunity, when a large proportion of people are vaccinated, it removes a great chunk of the disease and helps to protect those who haven’t had the vaccine. We will continue our Beat it Now! campaign to urge the Government to make the vaccine available through the NHS as soon as possible – time lost means more lives lost or left with life-changing after-effects.”
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccinations, delayed a decision to put Bexsero on the NHS earlier this year. The JCVI said there was insufficient evidence of cost-effectiveness and is currently reviewing new information on Bexsero.
Meningitis Now, which has 30 years’ experience, presented the first 20,000 names from its Beat it Now! petition to No. 10 and held a Commons reception for MPs, peers and supporters in October. The charity’s chief executive Sue Davie added: “We are asking the Government to not only consider costs of treating the disease, but the cost of bereavement support for families and after-care for survivors, from prosthetic limbs to lifelong support through school and adult life.
“Our campaign has created a powerful, united voice for people who know too well how meningitis and septicaemia devastate families, friends and communities in mere hours. They understand the need for immediate action and that Bexsero should be widely available.”
Meningitis Now, formed after Meningitis UK and Meningitis Trust merged this year, fights the disease on all fronts – funding preventative research, raising awareness and providing support.
To sign the Beat it Now! petition, donate or for more information, visit www.MeningitisNow.org.
For more information on the vaccine, visit www.bexsero.co.uk.