The Meningitis B Vaccination Debate
When Lee Booth took his 8-month-old daughter for her immunisations, he was told that she was too old for the meningitis B vaccine. This led him to launch a petition to try to change the regulations, so all children receive the meningitis B vaccination to help prevent the disease. It received 838,000 signatures; the highest number of signatures ever received for a health related petition to the Houses of Parliament.
Four million children are at risk of contracting meningitis B in the 0 to 4 age bracket, and the fatality rate is currently estimated at one in ten children. Of those who survive the disease, current figures suggest one in four children will suffer serious disability requiring lifelong care. As Headway launches its Action for Brain Injury Week this week, it is important to understand the number of children and adults living with a brain injury following meningitis.
The Department of Health estimates that it would currently cost around £3 million annually to vaccinate children under 5 in the UK and have provided evidence to Parliament comparing the costs of extending the vaccination against the cost of treating and caring for those affected by the disease.
The Parliamentary debate focused on both the cost effectiveness of the vaccination, and the cost of raising awareness of the early signs of meningitis B. The general consensus of the parents involved in the debate was that children received the immunisation for meningitis C, and there is a perception that this covers all strains of meningitis. However, children remain exposed to the risk of the B and W strain.
At Wolferstans, we have supported families who have decided to bring a medical negligence claim for the delay in diagnosis of meningitis, and in doing so have had opportunity to consider the full cost of care for a family supporting a disabled and often brain injured child. These costs include future care, medical treatment, equipment, appropriate accommodation, future loss of earnings and the need for state benefits, in addition to compensation for further injuries caused by the delay in diagnosis.
On 25 April 2016, MPs concluded the petition regarding the extension of the age range for the vaccination. Health Minister Jane Ellision replied to the Government explaining “I’ve been reassured that the programme we have is the right one, targeting the group of children at highest risk of disease and death. And (JCVI chairman Professor Andrew Pollard) confirmed the catch-up programme for one-to-four-year-olds would not be cost-effective at a realistic vaccine price”.
It is hoped that the petition, signed by every one of the 650 constituencies, has raised awareness of the early signs of Meningitis to help prevent a delay in diagnosis and treatment, whilst making clear the current level of protection children are receiving from the immunisation programmes for meningitis.
If you or any members of your family have been a delay in diagnosis of any strain of meningitis, and you would like to receive free independent legal advice, without any obligation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you require support and advice in relation to meningitis, please find support and advice from the Meningitis Research Foundation @M_R_F.