Families unite to fight for lifesaving Meningitis B vaccine
FAMILIES affected by meningitis are urging the Government to make a lifesaving new vaccine against Meningitis B – one of the deadliest forms of the disease – available to all children in the UK.
The vaccine, Bexsero, developed by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, received its marketing licence from the European Commission today.
It is the first Meningitis B vaccine to be licensed for use in the UK and will save thousands of lives, especially among children under five, who are most at risk from the disease.
Meningitis B is a major issue for the UK, which has one of the highest incidence rates in the world. It is the most common form of meningitis in the UK1, affecting an average of 1,8702 people each year, many of them children. One in 103 people who contract the disease will die and one in four3 will be left with life-changing after-effects, such as brain damage or limb loss.
Many families whose lives have been touched by the disease are uniting behind the ‘Meningitis B: Beat it Now’ campaign, set up by national charity Meningitis UK.
They are pressing the Government to urgently introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the Routine Childhood Immunisation Schedule, so children will receive it through the NHS and it will save as many lives as possible.
And they are emphasising the need for speed. The last major vaccine against a form of meningitis – the pneumococcal vaccine – took five years4,5 to be introduced into the schedule.
The Busbys of Neyland, Pembrokeshire are just one of the families supporting the ‘Beat it Now’ campaign.
Tony and Nikki Busby’s 10-month-old son Kadyn died on Christmas Day 2011 just hours after contracting Meningitis B and septicaemia.
Kadyn appeared to be his happy normal self on Christmas Eve morning but hours later he became lethargic and sick.
Tony and Nikki took him straight to A&E where 40 minutes later he developed a rash all over his body. At 2.20am on Christmas morning, doctors delivered the devastating news that Kadyn could not be saved.
Nikki, 29, said: “Meningitis absolutely shattered our lives within hours and has ever since.
“It’s important that the vaccine is brought into the immunisation schedule as soon as possible – it’s the difference between life and death. It will save thousands of lives.
“There’s no need for a debate about it – meningitis kills within hours. The Government just needs to act.
“No parents should have to go through our ordeal.”
Meningitis UK Founder Steve Dayman MBE, who lost his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia in 1982, said: “This ground-breaking vaccine is the most important development since I lost my son to meningitis 30 years ago.
“The Government must introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the immunisation schedule as soon as possible – it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering.
“Any delay means lives will be lost.
“The last major meningitis vaccine took five years to be introduced – we cannot wait that long again.
“Cost shouldn’t be a barrier for this vaccine either – you cannot put a price on life.
“Please support our Beat it Now campaign. Together we can end the heartache caused by Meningitis B.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who advise the Government on vaccination, will decide whether the Meningitis B vaccine should be in the schedule and what age groups will receive it.
They are due to consider the vaccine in summer this year and will look at factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines in the schedule.
There are a large variety of Meningitis B strains in the UK – more than in many other countries – which makes producing a broad-ranging vaccine very difficult. However, Bexsero is a significant success for scientists. Studies show it should protect against 73 per cent6 of Meningitis B strains in the UK. The vaccine was created using a revolutionary new process called ‘reverse vaccinology’.
Despite such success, there is still an urgent need to develop new and improved meningitis vaccines. The next step is to produce a Meningitis B vaccine with even greater coverage and there are still several deadly forms of meningitis, such as group B streptococcus, for which no vaccine exists.
Meningitis UK will not stop until everyone is protected against all forms of meningitis.
To support Meningitis UK’s Meningitis B: Beat it Now campaign, please visit www.meningitisuk.org/beatitnow. You can upload a message of support to our photo wall and email your MP.
Meningitis by numbers
- Over the past 10 years, around 3,400* people are affected by bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK each year and around 300 people.
- Meningitis can kill in under 4 hours, which is why it’s vital to know the signs.
- There are 8 main symptoms to look out for: fever, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, difficulty in supporting own weight and a rash that does not fade when pressure is applied.
- Over 500,000 people in the UK today have had viral or bacterial meningitis.
- 1 in 10 victims will die.
- 1 in 4 of those who survive will be left with a permanent disability such as loss of limbs, blindness, deafness or brain damage.
- Children and babies under 5-years-old are most at risk because they don’t replace the natural immunity they get from their mothers until school age.
- Those aged 14 to 24 are second most at risk, particularly students who are believed to be more susceptible due to living in close proximity to others.
- In the past 20 years vaccines have been developed to protect against Hib, Meningitis C and Pneumococcal Meningitis.
- There is no vaccine for Meningitis B, which accounts for 90 per cent of all meningococcal cases in the UK.