21 March 2015
Last updated at 02:57
Negotiations on a suitable price for the Men B vaccine are still going on after a year
Health campaigners say they are concerned by the delay in introducing a vaccine that protects against a deadly form of meningitis.
A year ago, expert advisers for the government recommended the Meningitis B vaccine be given to babies from two months old across the UK on the NHS.
But a cost-effective price has not yet been agreed with the manufacturers.
The Department of Health said it wanted to see the vaccine introduced as soon as possible.
The manufacturers, GSK, said they would be continuing discussions with the government.
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We appeal that a decision is made imminently, so should the vaccine be introduced, it can begin to save children’s lives…”
Dr Ian Maconichie
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Meanwhile, meningitis charities are calling for urgent action from the prime minister and the health secretary to conclude negotiations and introduce the vaccine.
Meningitis is a bacterial infection that usually affects children under the age of one.
There are about 1,500 cases each year in the UK, of which 1,350 are Meningitis B.
Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, confusion, vomiting and headaches.
With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most children will make a full recovery.
But it is fatal in one in 10 cases – and about one in four of those who survive are left with long-term problems, such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are very clear that we want to see this vaccine introduced as soon as possible to help protect children from this devastating disease.
“The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) recommended that a MenB vaccine be introduced, but only at a cost-effective price – below the price published by the manufacturer. We need to make sure NHS funds are used as effectively as possible and negotiations are continuing.”
GSK said the price of one dose of Bexsero – the vaccine in question – was £75.
The company recently acquired Bexsero as part of a recent transaction with Novartis.
Sue Davie, from charity Meningitis Now, said: “Too many of our children are needlessly dying or being left disabled due to this lethargic bureaucracy and this government’s inability to conclude a deal.
“How can it take eight months for two parties to negotiate on one item, especially when that item is a vaccine that will save lives and prevent disability?”
She said the UK had one of the world’s highest meningitis B rates, killing more of the country’s under-fives than any other infectious illness.
Dr Ian Maconichie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said a decision was needed urgently.
“One year on, we appeal that a decision is made imminently, so should the vaccine be introduced, it can begin to save children’s lives and spare some from severe preventable disability as soon as possible.”
There are several different strains of meningitis infection.
Vaccines are already given to babies in the UK to protect against meningitis C.
Last week, Public Health England announced that teenagers would soon be vaccinated against meningitis W after a steep rise in the number of cases.
What is meningitis?
• Meningitis is an infection of the meninges – the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
• Meningococcal bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the nose or throat by about one in 10 people
• They are passed on through close contact
• Anyone can get meningitis but babies and young children are most vulnerable
• Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, agitation, confusion, vomiting and headaches.