The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have advised the UK Government that the proposed new vaccine to prevent Meningitis B (“Bexsero”) should not be introduced.
Close to 2,000 people contract Meningitis B every year in the UK, and 1 in 10 die from the condition. Of those who survive, at least a quarter will suffer lifelong disabilities – including brain injury and amputation. It is mostly children under the age of 5 who are at risk of this strain of the infection.
As stated in our earlier blog on the topic, concerns have been raised about the NHS’ ability to treat children with meningitis. The new vaccine is thought to be effective in preventing 73% of the different strains of the disease. However, whilst the new Meningitis B drug has been licensed in Europe since January 2013, no country has yet begun administering it to children.
Concerns therefore do remain as to whether the vaccine is risk-free and whether it will prevent person-to person spread. Meningitis charities (including the MRF) have been campaigning for the vaccine to be introduced. They remain firmly of the view that the cost to the public purse of supporting seriously injured children who survive Meningitis B far outweighs the cost of immunisation.
It is worth noting that a drug to prevent Meningitis C was introduced to the UK in 1999. Whereas 1,000 people per year used to be affected by this strain, there is now only a handful – proving that prevention is surely better than cure.