Heading towards MenB vaccination
Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) welcomes the news that the first stocks of MenB vaccine, Bexsero®, have arrived in the UK
The vaccine, which could save generations of children from death and disability, was licensed at the beginning of the year, but until it is recommended for national implementation for all children, only families who can afford it to buy it privately will be able to protect their children.
In the near future, the vaccine will be made available free of charge on the NHS to those with medical conditions which increase their risk of the disease. However, the fairest and most effective way to combat this deadly illness is to introduce the vaccine into the childhood immunisation programme so that it’s free for all our children.Read our factsheet on MenB vaccine and this latest development
We feel the UK Government is in danger of failing millions of families for decades to come if it doesn’t implement the vaccine. At their most recent meeting the Government’s advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), agreed to reconsider their original recommendation not to introduce the vaccine, and we are pleased that evidence we provided is helping this process. Read about how MRF members provided evidence for the JCVI
We must not let MenB disappear off the radar while the JCVI are considering further evidence. The Secretary of State for Health will need plenty of evidence on how strongly the public believe in preventing this disease. We need you to ask your MP to write to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. Here is a template letter you can use
The JCVI has been considering the vaccine since 2011 but in interim minutes published in July 2013
said it was unlikely to recommend the new vaccine. The committee
invited this charity, and others, to respond ahead of its October
meeting and following those submissions the JCVI suggested it would be
seeking further analysis. The publication of their October minutes
on 13 November, confirms this approach – an approach we believe this
charity, our members and supporters has helped influence. Read our response to the JCVI.See the statement and the quote from the new JCVI Chairman, Professor Andrew Pollard
MenB - the human cost
We know from our members just how devastating MenB is for individuals affected, their families and their friends.
It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland, with one in 10 cases dying while others can be left with serious disabilities including the loss of limbs, hearing loss and brain damage.
We take inspiration from our members. They are determined something positive should come out of their traumatic personal stories. They want us raise aware awareness and prevent others suffering. That’s why they ask us to share their experiences in print, in film and online.
Paralympics reporter and keen equestrian Diana, is 30 years old and building a new life without her lower legs, her fingers and with epilepsy
. A former record-breaking hurdler, she became ill in November 2007 but refuses to let her disabilities hold her back. “My life has changed a great deal, but I have learned to manage just like anyone else. The journey I have been through, and many of the people I have met, have taught me a lot about myself. There is always someone worse off.”Read Diana's story in full
Harry was just 11 years old when he died in April 2007 and since then his family and friends have raised over £100,000 for our charity, specifically for research into MenB. His parents Judi and Richard say: “Harry always had a beaming smile on his face and limitless enthusiasm for sport and life itself. He woke feeling unwell but with no obvious symptoms. We just thought it was a bug. By evening we even thought he was well enough to return to school the following day. It was not to be. Harry's short life was extinguished in a single day
.” Read Harry's story in full
Tilly was 15 months old when she was misdiagnosed with an ear infection in January 2007. She was supposed to be “as right as rain in 36 hours” but was soon fighting for her life. She ended up having both hands amputated. Her toes dropped off at home. Mum Sarah says: “I cried and cried thinking 'how is she going to get through life without hands?
’ We have watched our baby girl in so much pain and be so brave. She truly is an inspiration to everyone she meets.” Sarah Lockey talks to Meningitis Research Foundation about how having amputations as a result of meningococcal septicaemia has affected her daughter's lifeTilly and Sarah featured in the BBC's coverage of the JCVI's decision. Click on the picture
David Ellson, from Northern Ireland, died of MenB in February 2002 when he was two-and-a-half years old. His mother Maureen says: “The doctor told us he was very ill and they had struggled to stabilise him after the transfer. Even at that point I couldn't believe he was going to die.
I didn't think it was possible that something so bad could happen to our family, we were good people and surely bad things don't happen to good people.”Read Maureen's story in full
Jo Lofting's son, Jack, has been severely affected
MRF Member Ben Hodds from Lowestoft says: “My son Ethan contracted meningococcal septicaemia in 2006 when he was a baby. Doctors gave him less than 10% chance of survival. He spent two weeks in hospital, including five days in a coma. Luckily he survived and made a full recovery but many other children don’t. I would hate Ethan’s sister and three brothers to go through the same thing, but as a father of five I can’t afford to pay for vaccinations privately and I know there’ll be many more parents in the UK in the same situation. It seems like only the rich will be able to afford to protect their children against this disease until the government make it available for all children.”
Our medical Adviser and Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Nelly Ninis, was the first parent in the UK to have her young children vaccinated with the MenB vaccine, Bexsero. Speaking as the doses were administered at Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London, Nelly said: “As a paediatrician I have witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by MenB and as a mother of young children I support all efforts to control this disease.
“While widespread reduction of the disease can only be achieved through universal vaccination, I encourage parents to speak to their GP about meningitis and the preventative options that are available.”
MenB by numbers
- 1870 average cases of MenB in UK per year
- 170 average cases of MenB in Ireland per year
- 10% of survivors will have a major disability including amputations, brain damage and hearing loss
- 33% of survivors will have minor deficits including psychological disorders & reduced IQ
- 7500 people, including over 5000 babies & toddlers, took part in clinical trials
- 73% in UK and 78% in Europe predicted coverage of new MenB vaccine
- 20 years since the first meningitis vaccine introduced – Hib 1992
Could this be the end of meningitis?
This vaccine is a tremendous step forward and could have a major impact on MenB, but it is unlikely to prevent all cases. This is why Meningitis Research Foundation continues to fund the development of future MenB vaccines, as well as research that will tell us what impact this vaccine is having. We hope this will bring us closer to achieving a world free from meningitis and septicaemia.Read more about the new vaccine
Counting the Cost of Meningitis
Robbie Jones is a MenB survivor. He lost both legs to the disease aged 23 months in 2008. His mum Gill backed our campaign to highlight the true cost of meningitis – which we estimate at around £3m for the lifelong care of each person seriously disabled.
With Robbie, she gathered hundreds of names for our Counting the Cost petition and they both helped deliver the petition of nearly 17,000 names to No 10 Downing Street on 17 September: “Robbie’s illness has been our worst nightmare
,” says Gill. “Which is why we committed ourselves to collecting signatures. We want to ensure everyone is aware of the dangers of the disease and that every child is protected against all types of meningitis and septicaemia.”Find out more about Counting the Cost
Why has it been so difficult to develop a MenB vaccine?
Unlike other bacteria which cause meningitis and speticaemia, the sugar coat of MenB bacteria does not trigger an immune response, because it looks like developing human brain cells. This means that the immune system does not recognise it as a foreign invader, and this protects it from attack. So using the sugar coat just does not work for MenB vaccine development.
The search for a MenB vaccine has had to focus on other elements of the surface of MenB bacteria but it has been very difficult to find elements which are both ‘visible’ to the immune system and present in every MenB strain. Even elements that are usually present are extremely variable, so the immune response against a vaccine made from one kind of MenB may not be capable of killing all the different MenB strains. Read more about the new vaccine
The journey of a new vaccine
From research to implementation. It's taken time for the new MenB vaccine to reach this stage and there's still a way to go before it's part of the immunisation programme in the UK and Ireland Read more
For more information about MenB our Freefone helpline is available 365 days a year