Families and meningitis charities meet Jeremy Hunt

28 Nov 2017
Families and meningitis charities meet Jeremy Hunt

Government response to MenB petition deemed unsatisfactory as families and meningitis charities meet Jeremy Hunt

  • Families devastated by meningitis join charities to highlight the real impact of meningitis to Jeremy Hunt
  • Meningitis Research Foundation urges action to secure greater protection and to make vaccine decision fairer
  • Petitions and Health Committees deem government response to MenB petition unsatisfactory

Meningitis Research Foundation is joining families affected by meningitis and septicaemia to meet with Jeremy Hunt today (29 November) to highlight the need for greater protection against meningitis for the whole population, and to fight to change the unfair rules that the government uses to decide whether to fund vaccines.

The government promised to review the process for vaccine decision making in the Cost-effectiveness Methodology for Immunisation Programmes and Procurements (CEMIPP) report. Meningitis Research Foundation provided evidence to show that it was unfair and what needed to be fixed. Over 800,000 petitioners were told that the report looking into the issues would be published in 2016. The report was never published but instead passed onto an internal government group, the Appraisal Alignment Working Group (AAWG), for consideration.

The Petitions and Health Committees have today said that the government response to the petition was not satisfactory, publishing a series of letters highlighting the issues – issues which have also been raised by Meningitis Research Foundation in letters to several Ministers, MPs and expert groups.

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said:  “We are deeply disappointed that decisions affecting vaccines in the UK continue to be discussed behind closed doors by a select group with a narrow focus of expertise, and that several promises to engage more fully and openly with us and other important stakeholders have been broken.

“As we have repeatedly highlighted, the cost effectiveness framework used to assess whether a vaccine should be introduced into the schedule is still deeply unfair to vaccines that prevent uncommon, severe childhood illness. Rather than using the CEMIPP process to fix this, we have concerns that cost-saving measures will drive down investments in vaccines despite their proven public health benefits.

“We have funded research to ensure there is evidence available to make vaccine decision making fairer. And we have stood alongside families demanding action and waiting for news. We have waited up to four months for response to our letters to ministers and over a year for the report. Promises to meet further with us have not be kept.

“We now need an open and transparent process to ensure the best access to vaccines. The outcome of this process could have huge ramifications for meningitis and all vaccinations. We will not wait for it to be buried in the corridors of Whitehall until an announcement is made without any recourse to public consultation. Vaccine decision making needs to be fair and vaccines need to be recognised for the true value they provide.”

Helen Jones, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “This petition was signed by more than 800,000 people, many of them motivated by the tragic stories of families who had lost their children to this devastating illness. It’s clear that this is a matter of huge public interest and concern. Families and charities have serious questions about the way the Government decides whether it is cost-effective to give children potentially life-saving vaccinations. This report might sound technical, but its recommendations—and what the Government decides to do with them—could have a big impact. It’s unacceptable that the Government has been sitting on this report for more than a year. It should publish it now and listen to outside views. If it doesn’t, the Committees will have to consider taking action.”

Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Committee, said: “I do not accept the Government’s case for refusing to publish this report. There should be many eyes on reports such as this, helping to ensure proper scrutiny and a response which fully takes public views into account. I am very disappointed that the Government considers that the ’potential for miscommunication’ in publishing this report outweighs the good which would come from transparency and accountability. As the Government acknowledges, there is great public interest in the matters which the report covers. The public, and experts in the field who were not involved in its publication, should have the opportunity to see it and comment on it before the Government reaches a final view. If the Government will not publish this report promptly, I will be inviting the Health Committee to consider what further steps it can take.”

View the original petition on the e-petitions website

View details on the evidence sessions

View the earlier correspondence
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