Bristol charity's campaign for meningitis vaccine to go on NHS launched
A BRISTOL-based charity has launched a national campaign to ensure a groundbreaking new vaccine against meningitis is given to every child in the country.
Meningitis UK brought people whose lives have been affected by the deadly disease together with city MPs and the Lord Mayor to spread the word that Bexsero has been licensed for use and to call on the government to urgently introduce the vaccine into the Routine Childhood Immunisation Schedule, so children will receive it through the NHS.
The new vaccine has been found to be effective against meningitis B - one of the deadliest forms of the disease, which kills one in every 10 people who contract it and leaves one in three survivors with life-changing after-effects.
Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman officially launched the Kingswood charity’s Beat It Now campaign at City Hall today.
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Joining him were Hannah Smart, whose five-year-old daughter Kelsey died of meningitis almost a year ago, and Onor Crummay, who suffered neurological problems after contracting bacterial meningitis while a student at Bristol University four years ago, at the age of 19.
They were joined by MPs Charlotte Leslie (Con, Bristol North West) and Kerry McCarthy (Lab, Bristol East) and Lord Mayor Peter Main. Liberal Democrat Bristol West MP Stephen Williams, who was unable to attend, sent a letter of support backing the campaign.
The UK has one of the highest rates of meningitis B in the world, with an average of 1,870 cases every year, many of them children.
The charity says Bexsero will save thousands of lives, especially among the under fives, who are most at risk.
They say the Government should introduce it without delay as the last major vaccine against a form of meningitis – the pneumococcal vaccine – took five years to be included in the NHS vaccination schedule.
Mr Dayman, who lost his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia in 1982, said: “This breakthrough vaccine is the most significant step forward since I lost my son to meningitis 30 years ago.
“We need the Government to act fast and urgently introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the immunisation schedule. It will save thousands of lives and spare families so much heartache.
“Any delay will mean lives lost and more suffering.”
“We are very grateful for the support of our local MPs and councillors – it is vital for building political pressure in favour of this vaccine.
“We hope as many people as possible – politicians and the public – will support our Beat it Now campaign to get this lifesaving vaccine made widely available.”
Ms Leslie said: “The work Meningitis UK is doing not only changes lives; it saves them. Meningitis B has a devastating impact on people across the UK and around the world.
“It is fantastic news that a vaccine has now been licensed and can begin the fightback against this terrible disease.
“I’m proud to support the Beat it Now campaign and hope to see the vaccine offered during routine childhood vaccinations.”
Mr Williams said: “Meningitis B is a devastating and deadly condition which must be prevented. I have met with constituents who have lost loved ones and I will never forget their heartbreak.
“Last year I wrote to the Department of Health about a vaccine for Meningitis B. I was told that an independent and expert review had begun and would be completed in 2013. I trust that the hopes of Meningitis UK are well placed and we will soon have an effective vaccine for this terrible condition.”
Government advisors on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation are due to decide during the summer whether the vaccine should be in the immunisation schedule and what age groups should receive it. Members will look at factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines in the schedule.
Meningitis UK says studies have shown that Bexsero, developed by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, should protect against 73 per cent of Meningitis B strains in the UK.
The charity says the search for vaccines with even greater coverage for Meningitis B cases, and the several deadly forms of the disease for which no vaccines exist, continues.
To support Meningitis UK’s Meningitis B: Beat it Now campaign, visit www.meningitisuk.org/beatitnow