Moving evidence at meningitis MenB petition debate
15 March 2016
Speaking from the first of two Evidence Sessions at the House of Commons to inform the upcoming MenB parliamentary debate, Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) Chief Executive, Vinny Smith, stated his admiration for the families affected by meningitis who gave evidence today.
After hearing from a number of families, including the Burdett family, the death of whose daughter, Faye, at two years old on Valentine’s Day this year prompted the unprecedented surge in interest in the petition calling for MenB for all under 11’s in the UK, Smith commented, “It takes great courage and belief to tell, for the greater good, the heart-breaking stories of how MenB has affected their families.
“The families’ evidence today graphically illustrated why meningitis is every parent's worst nightmare. This is an exceptional disease, with exceptional fear associated with it. We believe this concern must be taken into account when calculating what is and is not cost-effective."
Smith continued, “Fundamentally, we think the government’s rejection of wider MenB use is wrong because the current rules on cost-effectiveness are unfair.”
Smith and MRF Head of Research and Medical Information, Linda Glennie, will be making the cost-effectiveness point when they represent the charity at the second Evidence Session next Tuesday.
MRF will also be stressing the importance of another long held belief at the Session – the importance of herd protection in providing protection for all against MenB.
Linda Glennie said, “As we've been saying for many years, the key to successful meningitis vaccines programmes, like MenC in the UK and MenA in Africa, is herd protection, vaccinating the carriers of the disease so that they cannot spread the bacteria amongst the wider population. Vaccinating teenagers to prevent carriage of this bacteria, even under the current rules, could be a cost effective solution that would protect everyone.”
So, MRF will also be using the Evidence Session to renew our call asking government to deliver on the plan to show if vaccinating teenagers, the main carriers of MenB, can protect the whole population and in so doing protect the 2-11 year olds the current petition to government is calling for.
But a carriage study will take time to report and, in the meantime, MRF will also be joining the call that when the evidence is clear about the effectiveness of the MenB programme for under ones, the programme should be extended those next most at risk – the under-fives – to try and ensure that no more lives, like Faye Burdett’s, need to be lost.ENDS
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Notes to Editors:
- More on MenB vaccine
- MRF’s MenB campaigning has included 2011’s Counting the Cost of Meningitis (life-long care costs for survivors) and #WheresOurVaccine
- Meningitis and septicaemia 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 used 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.
- 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 studies.
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