At least 200 UK residents could have been saved from death or disability in the last year had a revolutionary new Meningitis B vaccine been introduced for free on the NHS.
A year ago today, the UK’s first lifesaving vaccine for the most common form of bacterial meningitis in the UK was licensed for use in the EU.
It was made available privately in December with an NHS £75 per dose price tag, but children will need two to four doses, depending on age – putting it beyond most families’ means.
But, in early 2013, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS had a legal duty to reduce health inequality.
Meningitis Now, the UK’s largest meningitis charity, estimates that within the year around 600 Meningitis B cases could have been avoided.
Furthermore, its figures indicate that at least 200 people have died or suffered life-changing after-effects including limb loss, brain damage and epilepsy.
These were avoidable if the vaccine was introduced immediately after licensure.
The national charity’s founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched his fight after losing his baby Spencer to the disease in 1982, said: “This vaccine has taken decades to develop and stands to save thousands of lives, reduce fear and spare so much misery.
“It’s devastating to learn that so many people could have been saved from death or disability had the Government acted faster.
“We continue to campaign to create a powerful, united voice for people who know too well how meningitis and septicaemia devastate families, friends and communities.
“They understand the need for immediate action and there shouldn’t be a delay.
“Time lost is lives lost unnecessarily – this vaccine should be widely available now.”
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccinations, delayed a decision to put Bexsero on the NHS last year.
It said there was insufficient evidence of cost-effectiveness, but is currently reviewing fresh information.
Meningitis Now’s Beat it Now! campaign for the vaccine continues and the JCVI is expected to announce its latest views on Bexsero in March – 14 months after the ball started rolling.
But it is still 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.
Meningitis Now chief executive Sue Davie added: “We’ve been campaigning hard for this vaccine for the last year including delivering the first 20,000 names of our petition to Downing Street.
“Although it’s available privately it’s expensive and beyond most people’s means.
“Families shouldn’t have to face the stark choice between using their money to feed their children, keep them warm or protect them against meningitis.
“Every baby should receive it free on the NHS, instead of it only being available to those with money.”
There are a large variety of Meningitis B strains, which makes producing a broad-range vaccine extremely difficult.
Bexsero, is a significant scientific leap forward and will cover the majority of Meningitis B strains in the UK.
It was created using a revolutionary new process called ‘reverse vaccinology’.
There are still several deadly forms of meningitis such as Group B Streptococcal, which do not have vaccines.
Meningitis Now, which has 30 years’ experience, fights the disease on all fronts – funding preventative research, raising awareness and providing support.
To sign the petition, donate or for more information, visit www.MeningitisNow.org.