A demand frommore than 800,000 people for the meningitis B vaccine to be offered to older children was today rejected by the Government as “not cost effective”.
The clamour for an extension of the immunisation programme from babies to children aged up to 11 was sparked by horrific images of two-year-old Faye Burdett, who died from the disease last month in King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill.
However the call – in the most-signed parliamentary petition in history – for the wider availability of the Bexsero vaccine was dismissed as not “a good use of NHS resources”.
The Department of Health said the availability of the MenB vaccine had been considered at length by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the independent advisory body, prior to the UK becoming the first country in the world to introduce it last September.
It said in a statement responding to the petition: “Our priority is to protect those children most at risk of MenB, in line with JCVI’s recommendation. The NHS budget is a finite resource.
“Offering the vaccine outside of JCVI’s advice would not be cost effective, and would not therefore represent a good use of NHS resources which should be used to benefit the health and care of the most people possible.”
However it revealed that new research had begun on the possibility of offering it to adolescents. A “catch-up” programme was not implemented for children aged one to four because even the infant programme – which gives doses at two, four and 12 months – was only “marginally cost-effective”, it said.
The Department also noted that Bexsero was not effective against all strains of MenB and advised parents of vaccinated children to continue to be vigilant.
Parents of children too old to receive the vaccine on the NHS have been paying private clinics up to £400. One Harley Street doctor told the Standard that demand had shot up from less than five children a year to five a day.
The charity Meningitis Now, which backs a “catch up” programme for under fives, said it hoped the Government would change its stance following the forthcoming parliamentary debate on the issue, for which a date is yet to be set.
There were 65 meningitis B cases in England between last July and September, up from 59 over the same period a year earlier. In 2014/15 there were 418 MenB cases, down six from the previous year. The MenB strain was responsible for 80 per cent of meningitis cases in infants and 86 per cent in toddlers, and caused 25 of the 56 meningitis deaths.