A petition to give all children the meningitis B vaccine has now been signed over 767,000 times – meaning Parliament will now consider it for a debate.
The campaign to vaccinate all children up to the age of 11 snowballed after 2-year-old Faye Burdett from Maidstone, Kent, caught the infection and died 11 days later on Valentine’s Day.
Her family shared a picture of Faye lying in a hospital bed covered in a dark red rash just before she died – and her story has done a lot for meningitis awareness.
This was continued when ex-England rugby captain Matt Dawson told how his 2-year-old son Sam had meningitis C – and thankfully recovered.
So who’s currently entitled to the vaccine?
Since September 2015, it has been offered on the NHS to babies between 2 and 5 months old.
How many doses?
Three for babies aged 2-5 months. All babies aged 2 months should be offered a first dose of the MenB vaccine, followed by a second dose at 4 months and a booster at 12 months.
What if your child is older?
If your child is older than 5 months then you’re not entitled to the vaccine on the NHS.
If you decide to get the vaccine privately for your child aged 6-23 months then they will need 2 primary doses and a booster after 12 months. Children aged 2 years+ need 2 primary doses but don’t need a booster.
Is there an age limit for older kids?
No, even teenagers can be vaccinated.
How do you get the jab if you’re not entitled to one?
“Start by asking your own GP for the vaccine, as if they can provide it, this is likely to be the least costly option,” a spokesperson for the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) said. “GPs may not be able to offer the vaccine to their own patients, but they may be able to arrange it via another surgery on private prescription.
“You can also get the vaccine from a travel vaccination clinic in your area, or a private GP practice. It is worth asking more than one clinic as prices can vary considerably.”
How much does it cost?
The NHS list price of the vaccine is £75 a dose. But GPs and clinics can set their own charges for administration and prices typically vary in every clinic from around £90 to £150 a dose.
Are stocks running low?
Yes: this won’t affect NHS patients, but will make getting a private vaccination difficult.
Due to unexpected global demand, GSK, the vaccine manufacturer, is experiencing “supply constraints” that will continue until about June or July.
“This does not impact the NHS MenB vaccination programme which will continue as planned,” a spokesman for Public Health England (PHE) said. “If we become aware of issues affecting the supply for the NHS immunisation programme, PHE will inform healthcare professionals and parents.”
GSK has asked private clinics temporarily not to start new courses of vaccination. “Children who have already started their course of the vaccine privately should still be able receive their follow up doses,” a spokeswoman for MRF said.
GSK has also said they are working hard to increase supply, and expect to have increased stock by summer 2016.
So, should you attempt to get the vaccine privately if your child is older than 5 months?
It’s entirely up to you. “Babies are at the highest risk of contracting meningococcal disease with peak incidence occurring at around 5 months of age,” a spokeswoman for MRF said.
“Children older than 5 months of age are still at risk of disease, but their risk is substantially lower than that of younger babies which is why routine vaccination on the NHS is focusing on the youngest age groups.”
And Public Health England agrees – if you’re eligible for the MenB vaccine then have it.
It’s worth noting that, at the moment, cases of MenB disease are “lower than they have been for decades”, according to the charity. Currently around 22 per 100,000 under 1s get it, reducing to 5 per 100,000 in the 1-4 age group and substantially less in older age groups, according to the charity.
But there is still a risk.
“MenB is a deadly and disabling disease with such a rapid onset that some parents may wish to have their child protected however small the risk of them contracting disease. From summer 2016, the vaccine will be available privately for parents who wish purchase it,” a spokeswoman for the charity said.
For more information visit the Meningitis Research Foundation