Recent media attention has caused many people to be worried about Meningitis B. So here at Healthwatch Bucks we thought we would offer some perspective on this issue.

Since September 2015 the Meningitis B vaccine became available on the NHS. The vaccine is available for eligible children only.  If your child is not eligible then private GPs are able to offer the vaccine but at a high cost as prices start from £125 per dose. Boots are also offering the vaccine.

For parents and carers who wish to arrange for the vaccine to be done privately you should be aware that supply is currently low due to the unexpected amount of global demand.

Statement from GlaxoSmithKline (Feb 2016):

Due to unexpected global demand for Bexsero (Meningitis B vaccine) during 2015, we are experiencing supply constraints during the first half of this year.

Although vaccination through the NHS childhood programme has been prioritised and is unaffected, we have unfortunately had to ask private clinics temporarily to not start new courses of vaccination. Children who have already started their course of the vaccine privately should still be able receive their follow up doses.

We know the unexpectedly high demand for the vaccine reflects the importance parents have placed on protecting their children from meningitis B. We hope to have improving supply from summer 2016 and we are working hard to increase capacity in 2017.

So, why can’t the NHS provide the vaccine for more children? The reason is complicated and is fairly well explained in this recent article which explains that the NHS could only really afford the vaccine at £9 a dose; however it is currently being bought at £75 a dose. It seems wrong that not all children can be offered this vaccine straight away; however as a fairly new and lifesaving vaccine things have gotten off to a good start and there is some further good news!

A petition which calls for all children under the age of 11 to be given the vaccine ‘Give the Meningitis B vaccine to ALL children, not just newborn babies’  has been signed by more than 700,000 people . Due to this parliament will discuss putting forward the debate for reversing the decision to limit the meningitis B vaccine to babies under nine months within the next few weeks.

Sources and further information:

Meningitis – Recognise the symptoms

Frequently Asked Questions on the Meningitis B vaccine

NHS Vaccination Schedule Age Checklist

Article from The Telegraph on MPs debating the Meningitis B vaccine

Article explaining why the NHS Meningitis B vaccination is not being offered to everyone

Published on 23 Feb, 2016

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