Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) welcomes the news that the first stocks of MenB vaccine, Bexsero, have arrived in the UK for private sale but has pledged to carry on campaigning until the vaccine is provided free of charge in the UK and Ireland.

?The vaccine, which could save generations of children from death and disability, was licensed at the beginning of the year, but the charity says that until it is recommended for national implementation for all children, it will only be available privately to those who can afford it (and, in the near future, to those with medical conditions which increase their risk).

Meningococcal B (MenB) infection is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK, and kills more children under 5 than any other infectious disease in the UK.

Today Novartis announced that the vaccine will be available privately at an NHS list price of £75 per dose to those who can pay for it. But MRF believes the NHS should be providing it free of charge. Chief Executive, Christopher Head says: 

“We know of hundreds of families already affected by MenB who would love to have their children vaccinated, but simply cannot afford to. A fairer and more effective approach is to implement this vaccine through the childhood immunisation schedule so that it’s free for all our children. The UK has the highest rate of child deaths in Europe and MenB is a significant contributor to this appalling fact. The Department of Health should be deploying every available vaccine to counter it. We will continue campaigning for this until it’s introduced universally. ”

MRF Member Ben Hodds from Lowestoft adds:  “My son Ethan contracted meningococcal septicaemia in 2006 when he was a baby. Doctors gave him less than 10% chance of survival. He spent two weeks in hospital, including five days in a coma. Luckily he survived and made a full recovery but many other children don’t.   I would hate  Ethan’s  sister and three brothers to go through the same thing, but as a father of five I can’t afford to pay for vaccinations privately and I know there’ll be many more parents in the UK in the same situation. It seems only the rich will be able to afford to protect their children against this disease until the Government make it available for all children.”

Dr Nelly Ninis, MRF medical adviser and consultant paediatrician at Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth is the first parent in the UK to have her young children vaccinated with Bexsero and said:  “As a paediatrician I have witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by MenB and as a mother of young children I support all efforts to control this disease.”