Updated: Jul 22
16 September 2013
Confederation of Meningitis Organisations member, Meningitis Research Foundation says the UK Government is in danger of failing millions of families for decades to come if it doesn’t implement a life saving vaccine.
The Foundation launches its annual Meningitis Awareness Week on Monday 16 September, just days after submitting feedback to the committee which advises the UK Government on vaccines. And the charity says the committee’s draft decision not to recommend a vaccine against meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia (Men B) “at any price” is seriously flawed.
The European Commission licensed Bexsero® in January 2013 but individual countries decide whether to use it. In its draft minutes, published in July, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) cited cost effectiveness and a drop in cases as reasons not to.
But Meningitis Research Foundation says basing the decision on the current decline in cases of MenB is short-sighted, as the disease has natural peaks and troughs over the years, and continues to fluctuate unchecked. Also, the Government has pledged to reduce child deaths to reverse the UK’s weak and worsening performance in European child mortality league tables. Accepting the JCVI’s no “not at any price” advice would undermine this pledge.
The charity believes the committee has underestimated the prevalence and severity of injury to those affected and therefore failed to take into account the full impact of Men B and the full cost to the NHS. This narrow view ignores long-term damage to bones and skin which consigns children to years of expensive and traumatic operations. It also disregards common short-term impacts on learning, movement, and psychological well-being.
There is no consideration of the astronomical costs to government either; tens of millions of pounds are paid out in negligence claims to families who successfully sue the NHS for mismanagement or misdiagnosis.
Also, the JCVI used a previously unpublished guideline to reach its draft conclusions. Under these criteria the charity believes the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) would not have been introduced in 2006 – yet it has saved around 140 lives and an estimated 2,800 hospital admissions. The charity says if the same guidelines are used in the future, new vaccines for children could disappear altogether.
Chris Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation adds: “The Department of Health’s own studies show meningitis is the disease most feared by parents. It’s one of the few illnesses in modern Britain that can kill or seriously maim a healthy child within hours of the first symptoms. With the UK Government committed to reducing child deaths, it’s inconceivable that a MenB vaccine should be licensed yet go unused in the UK.
“Prevention has to be the best option, that’s why we have invested over £17m in vital research. But now the UK has the chance to save over a thousand people every year from the devastation of MenB. Surely we should be seizing it and taking that all-important step towards a world free from meningitis and septicaemia.”
Notes: Meningitis Research Foundation believes no one should die or be disabled by a vaccine preventable disease. We have been campaigning for over 20 years to save children and adults from meningitis and septicaemia – supporting thousands of families and individuals with heart rending stories along the way.
We hold our annual awareness week so people remember to look out for the symptoms and act fast. We also devise and freely distribute millions of symptoms cards, posters, leaflets and booklets to inform the public and health professionals.
The JCVI asked Meningitis Research Foundation and others to submit feedback on its draft recommendation by early September in advance of its next meeting on 2 October. The committee’s final recommendations on MenB are expected to be announced when its minutes are published in mid November. Meantime the charity and its members have been appealing to Prime Minister David Cameron, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt and others for a change of heart.
Read Meningitis Research Foundation's full response to the JCVI, learn about MenB and see the impact of the disease at: www.meningitis.org/menb
To find out more about the charity or make a donation visit: www.meningitis.org.