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On 29th March 2015 it was announced by the Health Secretary that within this year the vaccine for Meningitis B will be offered to all babies across the UK.
The Charity Meningitis Now, after a hard fought campaign, are celebrating a great success in convincing the government that a vaccine for Meningitis B (Bexsero) should be offered to all babies in the UK. I have written previously about this campaign and the difficulties encountered. Until now the government had to be convinced of the costs vs benefit of this vaccine and then in turn strike a deal with the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline; all the while whilst more babies continued to contract this devastating disease.
No one could have failed to have been deeply touched by the plight reported of little Harmonie-Rose Allen from Bath, who contracted MenB in September 2014; as a result of the disease her parents faced the heart breaking decision of agreeing to all four of her limbs to be amputated in order to save her life. Her parents have fund raised for their daughter, raising over £100,000 to help facilitate her rehabilitation and need for prosthetic limbs.
The level of suffering of Harmonie-Rose and her parents could have been fully avoided with an earlier vaccination scheme. The new vaccine will cover more than 80% of the annual number of cases currently seen and will protect against the more virulent strain of the disease.
In March 2014 government advisors (the Joint Committee Vaccine and Immunisation) recommended to the Health Secretary, Jeremey Hunt, that a country wide vaccine be introduced to avoid young babies unnecessarily contracting this life threatening disease. Although this was accepted there were protracted delays in negotiating with the manufacturer, with campaigners screaming out that money and profits were being put before the lives of children.
One father Nick Crockatt, stated: “It’s just frustrating and disappointing that some people have lost their lives and limbs and bits and pieces as a result of this vaccine not being available.”
Great credit needs to be given to all of those who work for and have fund raised for the charity Meningitis Now, for without their monumental efforts through their “Beat it Now” campaign, this result would never have happened. Chris Head, CEO of the charity, said: “We are delighted that vaccinating all babies against this devastating disease is now within sight, cementing the UK’s position as a world leader in meningitis prevention.”
The NHS will now offer the vaccine to babies at 2, 4 and 12 months of age. At the time of introduction for babies between 2-4 months, they will still be offered the vaccine, however for those over 4 months of age will only be offered the vaccine if they are at increased risk. It is hoped theses changes will come into force by September; it is not clear whether the vaccine is available privately before then. Parents should seek the advice of their GP.
Congratulations again to Meningitis B for the success of their “Beat it Now” campaign which will hopefully save at least one life every 2 months and save hundreds of other children suffering devastating injuries.