No MenB meningitis vaccine for under-2’s in UK – meningitis charities disappointment

No MenB meningitis vaccine for under-2’s in UK – meningitis charities disappointment

13 July 2016

The UK’s leading meningitis charities, Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) and Meningitis Now, are greatly disappointed that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have concluded that extending the MenB vaccine against meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia to all children under the age of two is not feasible.

In the minutes of their June meeting published today, the JCVI said that while the life-saving Men B vaccine could prove cost effective for children aged between 13 and 24 months, there is insufficient supply of the vaccine to offer it to children in this age group without jeopardising stocks of the vaccine set aside for the existing NHS immunisation programme. For this reason they were unable to recommend extending implementation of the vaccine to all children under age 2.

Under-ones are the age group at highest risk of MenB infection, and are currently offered the vaccine. The risk to children aged 13 to 24 months is only slightly less than for these younger children, and a positive recommendation for extension of the vaccine to the under-twos could have saved lives if the government had been able to implement the vaccine before the winter meningitis season.

MRF Chief Executive of MRF, Vinny Smith, commented, “Vaccinating children under two years old against MenB meningitis and septicaemia would have made a significant, life-saving difference to vulnerable members of our families, so we are extremely disappointed with the JCVI’s conclusion. This is a significant opportunity missed to save young lives from this dreadful disease this winter.

“It is regrettable that vaccine supplies to protect these children cannot be secured in time for this year’s meningitis season without jeopardising MenB vaccinations for younger children who run an even greater risk, despite the renewed availability of vaccine for the private market.”

Meningitis Now CEO, Liz Brown said, “We are hugely dismayed by today’s decision, but will continue to campaign passionately for all children under the age of 5 to receive this lifesaving vaccine.

“We stand for the many thousands of families who are unable to protect their children from this devastating disease because they cannot afford to buy the vaccine privately. We will continue to fight against a system that discriminates against the health of the nation’s children on an ability to pay basis.

“I would ask the new Prime Minister, Mrs May, to honour her words when from Monday, when she said “We need a bold, new, positive vision for the future—a vision of a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.”, and to intervene on behalf of the 823,000 people who made their views on protecting the nation’s children very clear indeed.

“Meningitis Now has a legacy of campaigning for the introduction of lifesaving vaccines through the NHS and has played a key role in working with Governments behind the introduction of five meningitis vaccines in the past two decades.

“We are undeterred and will continue to fight for all at risk children under the age of 5, to receive this lifesaving vaccine.”

Both charities continue to argue that a national evaluation to show if this vaccine can prevent teenagers carrying the infection, as called for by the JCVI over two years ago, must be undertaken as soon as possible so that we can protect the whole population; the cost effectiveness framework used to make decisions about vaccines must be reformed so that there is a level playing field for meningitis vaccines; and an effective MenB vaccine should be extended to all children under five.

Media contacts:

MRF - Adrian Robson, Communications Manager 0333 405 626 249 /Sam Williams Media Relations Manager 07875 498047 (out of office hours)
Meningitis Now – Mark Hunt, Head of Communications 01453 768000 (daytime) and 07587 554857 (evenings and weekends)

Notes to Editors:
  • Meningococcal B infection has for decades been the single largest cause of meningitis in the UK. It strikes without warning, affecting mainly healthy children and is one of the few illnesses in modern Britain that can kill a healthy child within hours of the first symptoms. Babies, toddlers and adolescents are most at risk of this disease which leads to death in 10% of all cases and to long-term after effects in a further 36%.
  • Introducing MenB vaccine for babies in 2015 was a major step forward, but restricting the vaccine to only this narrow highest risk age group can never prevent the majority of cases. The tragic death of Faye Burdett and others too old to have routine vaccination provoked an unprecedented demand for the vaccine privately. A petition to widen access to the MenB vaccine was signed by 823,345 people - the largest petition on record at the time.
  • Meningitis charities have long been calling for a reform of the cost effectiveness rules, which put vaccines that prevent rare but severe illness in children at a disadvantage. A working group called the Cost Effectiveness Methodology for Immunisation Policy and Procurement (CEMIPP) has been set up to assess these rules for vaccines. MRF, as representative of 4 charities, has fed into CEMIPP discussions but the scope of the group has moved substantially since the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) called for it to be set up.
  • The petition calling for wider vaccine use was debated in Westminster Hall and as a result of this and the campaigning of the meningitis charities:
* the JCVI assessed the cost effectiveness of extending the MenB vaccine up to age 2
* a commitment was made by ministers to fund an evaluation of the vaccine in teenagers
* a commitment was made to publish CEMIPP’s recommendations

  • Although these commitments were made, there is as of yet, no confirmed mechanism in place for funding of a teenage evaluation or an agreed timescale by which the evaluation should commence. Additionally, although there has been a commitment to publish the CEMIPP report which will be finalised in the summer of this year, there has been no indication of timescales for publication or whether there will be an opportunity for open consultation on the report.
  • MRF welcomes today's announcement about new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on the recognition and treatment of sepsis (septicaemia).  Septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis are differing presentations of meningococcal disease. 

Sam Williams
Media Relations Manager

Hi, I’m Sam and I’m MRF's PR Manager.

If you want to know more about this story call me on 0333 405 626251, out of office hours on 07875 498047 or email me