We welcome Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that negotiations have finally concluded with vaccine manufacturer GSK for lifesaving meningococcal Group B (Men B) vaccine Bexsero and the fact that the UK becomes the first country worldwide to protect its babies against this killer disease, as part of a public health programme.
The news comes over one year after Bexsero, the UK’s first Men B vaccine, was recommended by the Joint Vaccine Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation (JCVI) for use in the UK’s childhood immunisation schedule.
The UK has one of the world’s highest Men B rates, killing more of the country’s under-fives than any other infectious disease - today’s news changes this.
Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched the UK’s meningitis movement after losing his baby son Spencer to Men B in 1982, said: “I’m absolutely elated with the news – I’ve waited 33 years since losing my baby to the same strain to hear this phenomenal, watershed news.
“So many lives and much misery will be spared”.
Meningitis Now has played a significant part researching and developing the Men B vaccine since it started in 1986 and has played a led in uniting supporters and politicians to lobby Government to get it free to all babies.
Whilst historic for Men B in the UK, today’s announcement fails to provide parents with the essential information as to when the immunisation programme will begin. Until this is announced, babies will remain at risk.
The dramatic Meningococcal Group W (Men W) increase adds further impetus to commence the Men B immunisation programme because it has been shown to impact against the Men W strain.
Meningitis Now Chief executive Sue Davie added: “There are still strains of meningitis that do not have a vaccine, and, of course, today’s news does not protect many others from contracting the disease. Even in this time of good news, we must remind people to remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms and, if they suspect meningitis, seek medical help immediately.
Steve Dayman, who won a Pride of Britain 2014 award, for his work, said: “Wanting to prevent other people going through what many families, including mine, have been through has been a driving force in our campaign. Tragically, for some, today’s news comes too late, but we’re here to help anyone affected for as long as they need us.
“I personally thank our supporters, the public, MPs and doctors who relentlessly united behind our award-winning Beat it Now! campaign, which sped up this landmark news.”