'U-turn' over meningitis B vaccine

'U-turn' over meningitis B vaccine

A meningitis B vaccine previously dismissed by government advisers as too expensive to be provided on for young babies on the NHS could now be rolled out across the UK - if costs can be agreed.

Policy on vaccinations, including in Northern Ireland, is informed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which has now agreed to adopt the Bexsero jab.Health officials had been coming under pressure from doctors and meningitis charities after the vaccine was rejected last year.However, its introduction will still be "subject to it being made available by the manufacturer at a cost-effective price".Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's department will start negotiations with the producer Novartis as soon as possible.A statement explained: "The JCVI has recommended adding the vaccination to the primary childhood programme, meaning that - if plans progress - infants will be immunised starting at two months of age."The JCVI has also advised that the vaccine is further extended to three and four-month-olds as a one-off catch-up programme when it is introduced."Back in February, as UTV reported how a mother who had lost her two-year-old son had joined the campaign to get the vaccine introduced, the Department of Health said: "Once the final JCVI recommendations have been received by the health minister, he will consider them before deciding what the policy will be in Northern Ireland."Last year, there were 22 confirmed cases of meningitis B in Northern Ireland and the condition was mentioned as a contributing factor in one fatality.If the vaccine is introduced across the UK, it would make it the first country in the world to implement a nationwide programme to immunise against meningitis B.It's a wonderful outcome which will save lives and spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one seriously disabled by the devastating after-effects of meningitis B.Meningitis Research FoundationSDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has welcomed the u-turn on the issue and the provision of the vaccine for free as a "massive relief" for parents"."Meningitis B can be a killer and, for those who survive, they can be left dealing with this trauma for the rest of their lives," she said."Today's news is the right decision and, whatever the reasons behind this dramatic u-turn, it is a massive relief for parents everywhere. CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)"Meningitis is one of the most feared diseases for parents. It can strike so quickly and have tragic consequences. Any preventative measure that can potentially save a life is priceless."DUP Upper Bann MLA David Simpson has also welcomed the news."The Meningitis B vaccine campaign was powerful - the emotional commitment of the campaigners was so evident and influential," he said."I am delighted that all our efforts have paid off, as the Health Secretary has accepted that the lives of children are more important than economic arguments."Since the vaccine was licensed for use, around 600 meningitis B cases could have been avoided."

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