Government rejects calls for Meningitis B jab to be given to all children

Effectiveness, cost and resources mean the vaccine won't be extended to older babies and children

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A petition requesting that the Meningitis B vaccine be given to all children under the age of 11 has been rejected by the Government, despite it being the biggest of its kind in parliamentary history.

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The petition was started after 2-year-old Faye Burdett, from Maidstone, Kent, died of meningitis B on Valentine’s Day this year, having had it for 11 days.

Former England rugby captain and Strictly star Matt Dawson lent his support to the petition after revealing his 2-year-old son Sami was lucky to pull through after contracting the C-strain of the disease.

But despite gaining over 819,000 signatures, the vaccination won’t be rolled out further.

The government say that not only would it cost too much for the NHS; there’s also an argument about how effective the jab is, and a lack of resources to administer it.

Who’s vaccinated against Meningitis B at the moment?

Currently the vaccine is given to babies between 2 and 5 months old. This is because under 1s are considered to be a high-risk age group – with 100 cases of Meningitis B and 6 deaths per year.

As children get older, the risk of contracting meningitis decreases (except for a blip in the teens group). 

Over the years cases of Meningitis B have been declining steadily: there were around 400 cases in 2014 compared to 1,600 per year in the early 2000s.

So why won’t the jab be rolled out to all children under 11?

  1. The way the vaccine is produced means it’s very expensive to make – and the NHS has finite resources.
  2. The current vaccination programme (started in September 2015) is so new they don’t yet know how effective it is.
  3. There’s been a decline in cases of Meningitis B in general.
  4. A large amount of time and resources would have to be put in to ensuring all children up to 11 received the jabs.

So, with all this in mind, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immmunisation (JCVI) “did not advise a catch-up programme in view of the marginal cost-effectiveness of even the infant programme”.

A final word from the powers that be

“The NHS budget is a finite resource. It is therefore essential that JCVI’s recommendations are underpinned by evidence of cost-effectiveness,” the official Government statement on the decision said.

“Offering the vaccine outside of JCVI’s advice would not be cost effective, and would not therefore represent a good use of NHS resources which should be used to benefit the health and care of the most people possible.”

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