What we all learned from the Men B debate in parliament
26 April 2016
Yesterday we asked MP’s to address three key issues in the parliamentary debate on extending the existing MenB vaccine programme. As a testament to the bravery of parents who shared their stories of tragic loss and suffering caused by the disease, and unprecedented levels of public interest shown by over 823,000 signatures to the original online petition calling for the debate, the event was well attended by all sides of the House.
Both UK charities and campaigners wanted MP’s to question how to make the rules that restrict investment in vaccines reformed so they are fairer. For a new evaluation of whether this vaccine can stop teenagers picking up and spreading the bug to be funded and a timetable on doing this stated clearly. And for a catch up campaign for under 5’s to take place using a proven effective vaccine.So what did we learn?
In three Ministerial announcements there was progress that campaigners and parents should be proud of. The government will publish the findings of the review into the cost effectiveness framework this summer for everyone to read and scrutinise. There will be a teenage evaluation - potentially the crucial key to protecting everyone. And there will be a new awareness campaign involving key professional bodies and charities later this year.
In addition we heard the Minister has asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise her on a potential extension of the vaccine programme up to age 2.
But crucially there was no commitment to a further catch-up campaign for under 5’s. Because of the length of time such complex and major evaluations take to design and execute, especially for such innovative vaccines as the Bexero (the vaccine used for Men B), the teenage evaluation will not start until December 2017.
Commenting on the government announcements, Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of MRF said:
“Despite progress on several fronts yesterday, sadly these announcements will fall short of what our supporters, members and I imagine the majority of the public will have wanted to hear which was to see under 5’s get access to this vaccine as quickly as possible.
“For any parent who witnessed the debate, they will find it very hard to imagine how such compelling evidence of the devastating impact of this disease could be set aside on grounds of cost.
“Of course, we’re pleased the cost effectiveness review will be made public. We look forward to hearing the advice the Minister receives on extending the vaccine to under 2’s. A teenage evaluation is very welcome news. Likewise a new awareness campaign must be welcomed.
“But awareness is no substitute for up front protection and protecting children didn’t take the major step forward today that it could have done.
“With the ongoing help of our members and supporters we will be continuing our campaign to get children the Men B vaccine they need and deserve. We will continue to influence the cost effectiveness review by participating in the consultation and sharing a detailed response to the published report. We will continue to push for an acceleration of the teenage evaluation to the earliest date possible. And we will keep asking for an effective vaccine to be rolled out as soon as possible to under 5’s.”
Notes to Editors:
- 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.
- Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) supporters across the UK are delighted that a long awaited and hard campaigned for MenB vaccine is now offered to babies for free under the NHS. However, the charity remain concerned that there is no catch up campaign for toddlers and no recommendation for teenagers, the second highest ‘at risk’ group, to be routinely vaccinated. Vaccinating this age group has the potential to protect the wider population because they are key to transmission and spread.
- 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.
- 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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