NHS financial constraints have been causing problems amongst worried parents of children denied the Men B vaccine
From September 2015 babies born on or after the 1st of July have been offered the Men B (meningococcal group B) vaccine as part of the routine immunisation schedule. The catch up campaign was recently administered as a one-off booster but now has captured a lot of media attention.
The plea for Men B has been made widely known after the child of England Rugby player, Matt Dawson recovered from the disease. The meningitis research programme reports to have been inundated with calls from concerned parents asking where they can get the Men B vaccine privately.
The cause of this plea is the knowledge that infants under the age of one are at the highest risk from the disease, being four times more likely to contract this illness than at any other age. This is why thanks to the work of the NHS children are offered to be vaccinated routinely at two, four and twelve months of age. However, children born before the 1st of May 2015 remain at risk as they are not eligible to be vaccinated on the NHS, their only option is to go private. Yet because of the high demand for the vaccine, there is currently a shortage of Men B vaccines in private institutions.
As Men B can be fatal in 10 per cent of cases, many parents are beginning to panic about their children not being immunised. Meningococcal infections tend to come in bursts. In the last 20 years between 500 and 1,700 people every year, mainly babies and young children, have suffered from Men B. Many who survive suffer from terrible permanent disabilities, such as amputated limbs, brain damage and epilepsy.
So we ask ourselves, why isn’t the immunisation given to all children? After the NHS controversy over baby vaccinations, including debates about cost efficiency and a campaign from 118 paediatricians, nurses and scientists, eventually the joint committee on Vaccination and Immunisation gave babies the Men B jab. Experts decided to care for those most at risk, and in the case of meningitis B, this meant protecting infants at around five or six months of age. The joint committee also advised a booster for slightly older babies who were three or four months old in September 2015, but not for any other age group.
Midwife, Gill Pownall also stated: ‘There have to be limitations — everything needs to be risk assessed against cost. It’s tough but the NHS are unable to do everything and there have to be limits. Vaccines are available to high risk patients’.