10 December 2013

The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) and our members worldwide welcome the UK's recent announcement to make the Meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine, Bexsero, available in the private market and Health Canada's decision to approve the same vaccine for use to protect against meningitis.

MenB infection is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK, and kills more children under 5 than any other infectious disease in the UK. Whilst this announcement is a step in the right direction, we believe every parent should have the choice to vaccinate their baby against MenB and until the vaccine is available for national implementation for all children, it will only be accessible to those who can afford it.

This position is supported by our UK member organisations Meningitis Now and the Meningitis Research Foundation who have vowed to keep campaigning until the vaccine is available for free, to all.

The MenB vaccine list price is £75 per dose plus the doctors fee to administer the vaccine and depending on age, each infant will require between two and four doses.

“We know of hundreds of families already affected by MenB who would love to have their children vaccinated, but simply cannot afford to. A fairer and more effective approach is to implement this vaccine through the childhood immunisation schedule so that it’s free for all our children. The UK has the highest rate of child deaths in Europe and MenB is a significant contributor to this appalling fact. The Department of Health should be deploying every available vaccine to counter it. We will continue campaigning for this until it’s introduced universally,” said Meningitis Research Foundation CEO Chris Head.

Over in Canada, the same MenB vaccine was approved to protect children aged two months to 17 years. MenB is the most common type of meningococcal meningitis in Canada responsible for four out of five meningococcal illnesses in infants less than a year old and two out of three illnesses in children between the ages of one and four. It also causes nearly two out of three cases in teenagers between 15 and 19.

“Vaccination and increased awareness are crucial to preventing the spread of meningitis,” according to Furakh Mir, Founder of Meningitis Relief Canada (MRC), a CoMO member organisation.

“The approval of this new meningitis vaccine is a huge step forward in preventing the spread of this devastating disease.”

Mir's own infant son contracted meningitis two years ago, but thankfully recovered. “Children and teenagers are at the highest risk of contracting meningitis,” continued Mir. “As parents, we will do anything to protect our kids. Vaccination can prevent so much suffering by keeping young people healthy and giving parents peace of mind.”

Meningococcal meningitis is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It is one of the most devastating diseases affecting children and teenagers, and often goes initially undetected because its early symptoms resemble a common cold or virus.

Appearing suddenly, MenB can be fatal within hours of the first symptoms. Some individuals will die and many who don't will face long-term disability, such as neurological damage, hearing loss, or when septicaemia is involved, limb amputation.