Health Professionals ask Jeremy Hunt #WheresOurVaccine?
03 March 2015
516 Health professionals, associations and colleges across the UK have once again joined forces to write to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
asking him to intervene to introduce the long-overdue MenB vaccine (against meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia) into the national immunisation programme for infants.
Meningitis Research Foundation which coordinated the letter points out that March 21st marks one year since the MenB vaccine was recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), subject to a cost-effective price being agreed between the vaccine manufacturer and the Department of Health (DH).
Dr Simon Nadel, Adjunct Professor of Paediatric Intensive Care, St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College London who is the lead name on the letter, says: “Meningococcal B infection has for decades been the single largest cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK, and a leading cause of death and disability in young children. It is feared by parents and health professionals alike because it is difficult to diagnose, strikes without warning and can kill a healthy child within hours. Prevention is key.”
Chris Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: “A year ago we asked the Health Secretary to intervene to bring about the vaccine’s introduction, but no progress has been made. Price negotiations for the vaccine have been underway since last summer, and they have stalled. Meanwhile babies and children continue to die or suffer devastating injury. If this vaccine is not introduced, it will be the first time the government has failed to introduce a vaccine recommended by the JCVI.”
“ The JCVI stated that the vaccine recommendation was subject to a cost-effective price being agreed between the vaccine manufacturer and the DH, but these price negotiations have been ongoing since July 2014. The cost effective price range for this vaccine was published in October last year with an upper limit just over £20 - a substantial saving on the official NHS list price of £75. As both the manufacturer and the government are negotiating within this published cost effective range, we cannot see why agreement cannot be reached.”
Dr Nadel highlights in the letter the recent emergence of a new virulent meningococcal strain (ST11)
that is increasing rapidly in the UK, with fatality of 13% and rising. The new vaccine is expected to cover this strain, providing better value and additional health benefits, and makes the equation even more vaccine-favourable.
Mr Head went on to say “We realise there are many pressures on NHS budgets but this Government claims to want people to be fit for life. Surely the answer is to protect future generations by vaccinating to prevent disease? We’d also like to see a MenB vaccine for older children and a programme for adolescents. A number of deaths at university at the beginning of the academic term demonstrate meningitis is still a very real threat to this age group.”
“We appeal to Jeremy Hunt to see that the MenB vaccine is introduced, combating this devastating disease and cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in meningitis prevention. We will not stop until every child is protected from this disease.”
If you are a UK health professional or scientist and would like to add your name to the letter, you can do so here
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