Young Meningitis Heroes

20th March 2015

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Department of Health’s announcement that the UK’s first Meningitis B (MenB) vaccine will be in the childhood immunisation programme, subject to price negotiations

Downing Street

To mark the anniversary, 11 of our Young Ambassadors attended 10 Downing Street in a unique opportunity to talk directly with the PM’s health advisor Nick Seddon.

Forming part of a tour of No.10, the group met with Mr.Seddon in the cabinet room where they vividly expressed both their own experiences of meningitis and their concerns over the continued delay in the vaccine’s introduction. Mr Seddon committed to updating the PM on what he had heard.

Whilst in Westminster the group also handed in an 11,000 strong petition to the Department of Health calling on David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to personally intervene and force the Department of Health to conclude negotiations before the dissolution of parliament on 26 March and enable the introduction of the vaccine.

Collected over the previous two weeks by our Young Ambassadors using Facebook, the petition brings the total number of signatories demanding the vaccine's introduction to nearly 50,000.

Invited by the Prime Minister to visit No.10, all of the Young Ambassadors have a personal experience with MenB - a disease that may have killed one baby for every month since the vaccine was approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), one year ago.

Our CEO Sue Davie, who attended Downing Street with the Young Ambassadors said:  “Too many of our children are needlessly dying or being left disabled due to this lethargic bureaucracy and this government’s inability to conclude a deal. How can it take eight months for two parties to negotiate on one item, especially when that item is a vaccine that will save lives and prevent disability?  Since the MenB vaccine was recommended for use by the JCVI one year ago we estimate that one baby per month under the age of one may have died and that many more will have suffered devastating consequences including limb loss, acquired brain injury and deafness."

The shocking reality is that the UK has one of the world’s highest Meningitis B rates, killing more of the country’s under-fives than any other infectious illness.  We have in the MenB vaccine a rare opportunity to change this staggering fact and demand that David Cameron and Health Secretary Hunt choose to recognise this anniversary by taking action to ensure its introduction as a matter of urgency.

In total, one in 10 UK people who contract bacterial meningitis die and at least one in three survivors suffer after-effects including limb loss, brain damage, epilepsy, deafness and blindness.

We also welcome last week’s Public Health England (PHE) announcement to offer all 14-18 year olds immunisation against Meningitis W. This followed a PHE report showing a continued rise in cases – some 430 per cent – between 2009 and 2014.

Sue added: “We share the concerns over the Meningitis W outbreak and welcome the decision to take swift action to reduce transmission. But we remain deeply concerned that the Meningitis B vaccine, which could protect babies against Meningitis W, continues to be held up in negotiations. The sooner these conclude successfully the sooner babies are protected against Meningitis B and W as well.”

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