I have joined MPs from all parties and over 823,000 people across the UK who signed the largest-ever parliamentary petition to call for the lifesaving meningococcal B (Men B) vaccine be extended to those most at risk – the nation’s children.
The petition, which called for the Men B vaccine to be given to children up to the age of 11, shot to prominence following the publication of images of 2 year-old toddler Faye Burdett as she fought for her life in a hospital bed with meningitis and septicaemia.
Sparking a national debate around the current Men B vaccine programme, Faye’s story highlighted the restrictive nature of the government’s current programme, which has only been offered to babies aged up to 1. Faye died at the age of 2 on the 14 February 2016. She was 18 months too old to receive the vaccination that could have saved her life.
I have met with the UK’s leading meningitis charities, Meningitis Now and Meningitis Research Foundation, and families affected by the diseases and have written the below letter to Jeremy Hunt, asking for him to consider including this drug in the routine immunisation programme.
“A number of constituents have communicated to me their support regarding the petition currently on the UK Government website for the Meningitis B vaccine to be made available to all children on the NHS up to the age of 11. Currently, I understand the vaccine to protect against Meningitis B is available on the NHS for babies aged two months, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. However, this does mean that parents who wish to have older children vaccinated must make the agonising decision of whether to pay privately for this vaccine.
The brave decision of Faye Burdett’s parents to share the images of their daughter has raised awareness of this terrible disease. I am sure you will agree that the pictures are absolutely harrowing and I believe that their actions will already have saved lives by increasing people’s awareness of the signs and symptoms. For these reasons alone I can see why the petition has become the largest Government e-petition ever. However, with every good intention of course, I understand that the implementation of this measure would cost the NHS.
Therefore, I would be grateful if you could provide clarification on how much it would cost to implement the vaccine to allow all children up to the age of 11 to have the vaccine against Meningitis B and the practicalities towards introducing this.
I would also welcome your comments on the suggestion that a compromise might be to introduce it for the under-fives, who are the most vulnerable. That would represent a huge, one-off boost to the UK market for the vaccine. As a gesture of goodwill, Novartis, the manufacturer, and GlaxoSmithKline, the distributor, should respond by making the vaccine available at a nominal cost.
Thank you in advance for your response to this matter.”
I also wrote a weekly article to this subject recently CLICK HERE
This is an issue of national interest and as an MP one that I could not ignore. I know families who have been affected by meningitis and know how terrifying and devastating a disease it can be. Too many lives have been turned upside down by meningitis and whilst the government has to be applauded for bringing in the Men B vaccination, it should be doing more to protect all of those who are shown to be most at-risk from this devastating disease. I’m happy to add my name to the growing list of MPs calling on the government to review the current vaccine regime in order to protect children like Faye, who, through fluke of timing wasn’t protected. We have a vaccine that has the potential to save many young lives and we should be using it.
The UK has one of the highest Men B incidence rates in the world, affecting an average of 400 people each year over the last 10 years, most of whom are babies and children.