The UK vaccination committee has rejected a newly licenced vaccine for widespread introduction in the UK much to the dismay of Meningitis charities.
In January 2013 the charity Meningitis UK were excited to announce that a new meningitis vaccine called Bexsero® had received a medicines licence in the UK and very much hoped that it would quickly be introduced into the NHS childhood immunology programme. The ‘Meningitis B: Beat it now’ campaign was set up. Unfortunately in July 2013 the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation said that there was not enough evidence to justify the routine administration of this drug to children. This is particularly pertinent this National Meningitis Awareness Week.
It is with great disappointment that those charities supporting the introduction of this Meningitis B vaccine have received the news that its introduction will not be brought to the UK. The European Commission had endorsed the use of this drug as a wide-ranging vaccine for meningococcal B Meningitis and septicaemia as it was deemed to be safe and effective.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was asked to consider the wide spread introduction of this drug into its immunology programme as it has with other preventative treatments, such as the MMR and polio vaccines. However surprisingly the JCVI has rejected the proposition on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence available to support the drug’s effectiveness to justify routine vaccination.
Chris Head of the Meningitis Research Foundation told the Guardian newspaper that “This is the disease most feared by parents. It kills more children under five than any other infectious disease and leaves survivors with life-changing disabilities….we know every delay costs lives…The UK’s child mortality rates are among the highest in Europe.”
The Meningitis Trust responded by stating: “Although we understand that a population based evaluation would generate further evidence for the vaccine, our concern is the further delay caused by this and the lives being lost. The meningitis C vaccine was introduced quickly and effectively because it was needed to save lives and we are asking for the same approach to meningitis B. Having campaigned long and hard with your wonderful support we are not about to give up our fight…. We will redouble our efforts to persuade the powers that be to rethink.”
In April 2013 we wrote a blog about the devastating effects of undiagnosed meningitis. Many families who have been affected by meningitis are truly dismayed by this decision, particularly after having watched their child suffer extreme pain and sometimes the amputation of limbs. The time span for diagnosing and treating this disease is slim and therefore the best option is prevention rather than cure. Some families have made a claim for delayed diagnosis of meningitis which has led to their child suffering serious and lifelong injury and wish a vaccine had been in place for their child which would have avoided the meningitis injuries suffered.
The JCVI state that on a costs:benefit basis they could not say that it would be a costs effective drug at any price on the basis of the threshold required in the UK as they measure effectiveness by the levels of antibodies in the system rather than the numbers of vaccinated against un-vaccinated children who succumb to the disease. But those who have seen the effects of this disease have no doubts that the costs involved should not be applied to a disease with such catastrophic effects, where 1 in 10 children who contract the disease will die.
It is hoped that further population studies of the efficacy of the vaccine will persuade the JCVI to change its position. The clinical negligence team fully supports the need to introduce this program as soon as possible to reduce meningitis injuries.