MenB vaccine and the tragic death of Faye Burdett
18 February 2016
Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) thoughts are with the family and friends of little Faye Burdett who died from Meningococcal Group B (MenB) meningitis earlier this week. It is yet another awful example of a life cut far too short from this terrible disease.
In the past few hours alone over 400,000 people have been inspired by Faye’s story to sign a petition calling for the roll out of Bexsero, a MenB vaccine, to all under 11’s. This follows the fantastic campaign last year to get the vaccine introduced in the first place.
In a special session of our scientific advisory panel this morning some of the country’s leading experts in meningitis shared their thoughts on the right course of action now:
Dr Shamez Ladhani, Paediatric Infectious Disease Consultant at St George’s University of London says: “The UK is the first country to introduce a national and publicly funded infant Bexsero immunisation programme in the world. This is a new vaccine and we need to gather as much information as possible from the current programme to make informed decisions about how best to protect those who are most at risk. We are targeting the age group most at risk and every year, another birth cohort will be protected by this vaccine. By next year, all 1 year-olds and many 2 year olds will also be protected against this devastating illness.”
Paul Heath, Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases says: “It is really important that high quality research continues to be funded in order to address the remaining questions. The UK is the first country in the world to introduce this new vaccine and has first targeted those who are at highest risk. We need to gather the evidence in order to see whether this strategy needs to be extended to protect more children."
James Stuart, visiting Professor at the University of Bristol and WHO advisor says: “It is important to emphasise that the UK is the first country to introduce Bexsero vaccination, that babies who are at highest risk are being offered vaccine and that we need to know how well the vaccine is working. So it may not be the time yet to widen the programme.”
Nigel Klein, Professor of Infection and Immunity at Great Ormond St Hospital and University College London says: “‘It has been fantastic how research funded by charities such as MRF has improved the way we manage children with meningitis and septicaemia. This includes helping parents to recognise this condition and seeking medical help as well as encouraging the introduction of effective vaccines to prevent all forms of this disease. We are delighted that the new MenB vaccine has now been introduced and we all hope will be successful. However as yet we really don’t know how effective it will be and if there are going to be any problems and this is a major area of ongoing research supported by the MRF. If successful, we would strongly recommend extending the vaccine programme to cover all vulnerable people.”
MRF Chief Executive Vinny Smith commented, “There is a tremendous level of public support and MRF shares the passion and aims of this movement. We all want to avoid needless death and disability. MRF are working to build the strongest case to make this happen. To make decision makers sit up and act. To get more effective vaccines to more people who need them. To make sure those vaccines work.
MRF has always challenged governments to make meningitis vaccinations available to all children. We are proud of our role in these campaigns. As a result, vaccinations are a big reason why deaths from meningitis fell significantly over the last 20 years. At times the government have been slow to act, and when they have we have held them to account.
Last year we called on the public to shout loud, “Where’s our vaccine!” Not only convinced by the emotional case (which is always irrefutable), the government finally consented to introduce the vaccine having been persuaded by the hard-headed scientific and financial analysis we presented with others about its cost-effectiveness.
The MenB vaccine is innovative and together we are fighting a fiendishly clever bacteria. This year it’s time to build the latest evidence. To show what is happening in reality now the vaccine programme has been introduced. MRF is funding research into how the vaccine is working right now.
Smith continued, “Once we have the evidence about the best strategy for providing the best level of protection against MenB we can make the strongest case for the vaccine being used to protect more people. And we will.
“Patience isn’t easy when you look at pictures of Faye. We are too late for her. That is unacceptable. Keeping government commitment to our national vaccination programmes is an essential part of achieving that. And we don’t want to do anything that could undermine the vital public confidence in this crucial tool either. Losing that confidence could result in many more deaths in the long run than we save today. That would be an even bigger tragedy.”
More about MenB vaccine in the UK
Media contacts: For further information please contact Becky Pierce-Jones, PR Manager on 0333 4056251 or media mobile: 07875 498047.
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Notes to Editors:
- MRF estimates that there are around 3,200 cases of meningitis and septicaemia every year in the UK. They are easily mistaken for milder illnesses, but unlike a dose of flu can kill within hours and may cause serious, life-long disabilities. As many as one in ten of those affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness and hearing loss.
- There are currently 16 projects in MRF’s active research programme in addition to the MRF Meningococcus Genome Library, an ongoing research resource that was started with MRF funds Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 147 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £18.6 million. Our research is trusted by professional organisations to inform everyone about the symptoms, prevention and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia. Many of its guidelines especially for new parents and health professionals are officially endorsed by the medical community.
- The MRF Meningococcus Genome Library is a world first which provides the complete genetic blueprint of every meningococcus that was isolated as a cause of meningitis or septicaemia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between July 2010 and June 2013. Meningococcal genomes from Scotland between 2009 and 2013 have also been added. The Library is free of charge and open to all researchers, anywhere in the word and is invaluable for evaluating and implementing new vaccines - which will ultimately save millions of lives across the globe. - See more at: http://www.meningitis.org/current-projects/genome
- MRF also supports those already affected with a telephone helpline, home visits and members’ days. Our Freefone helpline – 080 8800 3344 – provides information to the general public and those affected by the disease. We provide symptoms information, research and case studie.
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