The UK Government announced yesterday that the MenB vaccine that parents want to be given to all children under 11 is not cost-effective. It will not be rolled out to all, despite more than 750,000 people wanting it.
It took just two weeks for the meningitis B vaccine petition to become the most-signed online petition in UK history. After the death of Faye Burdett due to the infection, parents wanted to see all children under 11 protected. At the moment, only children born from July 2015 are entitled to the free vaccination on the NHS. It is part of the childhood booster program, and is given at two, four and 12 months. Parents of other children can pay for the vaccine for older children, and it is given in three doses and costs around £300-£450 for the full treatment. However, some parents are being turned away from privately getting the vaccination due to a shortage everywhere. Private clinics claim the NHS has all the vaccines.
Doctors had warned that rolling out the vaccine to all would not be cost-effective. Babies are the most vulnerable and at risk group of children of the bacterial disease. The problem is the current strain the under-funded NHS is currently at. It is regularly in the news due to problems at hospitals, struggling junior doctors and A&E closures.
The Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations (JCVI) looked into the possibility of the vaccine rollout, and stated that it would be too much for a small return. “The NHS budget is a finite resource,” the JCVI concluded, and the vaccine would not be a “good use” of the resources.
Parents have lashed out at the decision, with some claiming that money is being put before children’s lives. Others have supported the decision, considering it is available but for a price. They say not everything can be given for free. Just recently on Facebook, a viral photo sent a message to UK citizens to start buying paracetamol and ibroprufen, instead of having a doctor write a prescription. This could save the NHS thousands of pounds, and would only cost patients less than £1 if they opted for supermarket-own brands. It would mean the NHS budget could be spent elsewhere.
David Cameron had been questioned by Helen Whately of the Conservative Party to see what he would do about the MenB vaccine given the petition. He said that while it was devastating for Burdett’s parents, out of 276 meningitis B cases—not giving a timeline for that—100 cases were of children under the age of one. They are the ones most at risk. He also pointed out that the UK is the first country to offer the new vaccine, which came into effect in September 2015.
The MenB vaccine is not without its risks or side effects. The NHS recommends parents give their children paracetamol before attending the clinic for their jabs, due to the fever side effect. This is very different advice from before, where the paracetamol was given later in the day if parents felt the need. All jabs can cause fever, but the MenB vaccine is the worst offender.
Campaigners have said they will not stop until the meningitis B vaccine is available for free for all children under the age of 11. They say all children deserve to be protected.
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