IT IS CRIMINAL that this vaccine is not available to all children under the age of five.
Those are the words of borough meningitis campaigner Angela Cloke as she joins the growing national call for the Meningitis B vaccine to be given to all youngsters.
The Bexsero vaccine was introduced in September last year to be included as part of the infant immunisation process.
This means that any children born after July 1, 2015 now have the vaccine, along with meningitis C jab as part of their standard immunisations.
The decision followed a lengthy battle surrounding affordability versus the number of lives it could save.
Campaigners, including Mrs Cloke whose son Samuel fought and beat meningitis as a youngster, celebrated the decision as a partial victory and vowed to keep campaigning for all under 5s – and 15-year-olds who are also in a key risk category – to be given the protection.
But the recent high-profile and tragic death of two-year-old Kent toddler Faye Burdett have seen the issue catapulted back into the spotlight – with 700,000 people and counting having already signed a petition demanding for the Government provide the vaccine to all children under 11.
“It is criminal that this life-saving vaccine is not available to all children under five – and preferably all children full stop,” Mrs Cloke told The Observer.
“It is relatively expensive at £75 per shot and three shots needed, but what price can you put on saving a life?”
She added that it wasn’t just death rates that needed to be considered – and that the thousands of people left with debilitating conditions, including paralysis, blindness and deafness needed to be factored in, both ethically and financially.
The main risk groups for meningitis B are the under fives whose immune systems are not fully developed, 15 to 25-year-olds who spread the infection through kissing, and the over-55s whose immune system is not as strong as youngsters.
“We also want to see all 15-year-old given the vaccine to protect them during the risk years and this would negate the need to extend it to the over-55s as the less people who carry it in the younger generations, the less likely the older generations are to contract it,” Mrs Cloke added.
“I would like to urge everyone to sign the Government petition – it is vital in the fight against this cruel and killer infection.”
Parents whose children are not vaccinated as part of the standard child immunisation programme have been able to finance their own immunisation privately – but at a much higher cost of around £500.
That is until now.
GlaxoSmithKline, the drug manufacturer responsible for Bexsero, has not made enough of the vaccine and has instructed suppliers of the immunisation privately that they are unable to restock them until at least the summer as all supplies have to be handed to the NHS.
“I can’t believe a company of this size has made such an error it simply not having enough of the drug,” added Mrs Cloke.
“That is absolutely shameful – and that is before you consider the ethics of many people not being able to afford the ramped up private price of immunisation.”
In a statement GlaxoSmithKline said: “”We know the unexpectedly high demand for the vaccine reflects the importance parents have placed on protecting their children from meningitis B.
“We hope to have improving supply from summer 2016 and we are working hard to increase capacity in 2017.”
Sign the petition here: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/108072