- Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation made the ruling
- Said extending jab to older children would 'not be cost effective'
- A catch up programme for 2-year-olds would put current stocks at risk
- Ruling follows petition of 800,000 signatures demanding vaccines for all
- Charities said Government had missed opportunity to save children's lives
Government health advisers have rejected calls for all children to be given the meningitis B jab.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said extending the meningitis B programme to all children under two would put current stocks of the vaccine at risk.
It also ruled that older children should not receive the jab, saying this was not a 'cost-effective' use of NHS cash.
Meningitis charities blasted the ruling and said the Government had 'missed the opportunity to save vulnerable young people's lives'.
Government health advisers have rejected calls for all children to be given the meningitis B jab. A petition calling for the vaccination programme to be extended gathered momentum following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Maidstone, who died on Valentine's Day after fighting the infection for 11 days
The petition gathered momentum after Faye Burdett's harrowing pictures were shared by her parents. It was signed by 823,341 people - the most in Parliament history
The JCVI's decision follows an announcement by the Government in March that it would not support the meningitis B vaccine being given to all children, saying it would be a waste of money.
More than 820,000 people have signed a petition on the parliament website calling for the Bexsero jab to be given children of all ages rather than just babies - the most in Parliament history.
The petition gathered momentum following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Maidstone, who died on Valentine's Day after fighting the infection for 11 days.
The Bexsero vaccine is available on the NHS for babies aged two months, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months.
Parents of older children were able to pay privately for the treatment – at prices which have risen to up to £750 for a course of three jabs.
However, for the past few three months supplies have been exhausted, meaningno child over the age of one could get the jab in Britain for three months.
But at the beginning of July, Boots and Superdrug announced they have the vaccine back in stock, with the treatment costing about £95.
In its latest meeting, the JCVI considered a catch-up programme to capture all under-twos.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MENINGITIS?
Meningitis can affect any age group, but is more common in babies and young children
If the bacteria invades their body, their immune system cannot provide resistance to fight off infection
Symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and can include:
- A high temperature over 37.5C (99.5F)
- Vomiting and headache
- A blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop)
- A stiff neck
- A dislike of bright lights
- Drowsiness or unresponsiveness
Babies may also:
- refuse feeds be agitated and not want to be picked up
- have a bulging soft spot on their head (fontanelle)
- be floppy or unresponsive
- have an unusual high-pitched cry have a stiff body
Source: NHS Choices
While it agreed this would be cost-effective, it said there was a risk to current stocks of Bexsero and noted a long lead time to procure new stock.
The report from the JCVI meeting said: 'The committee noted there was unlikely to be any vaccine available to deliver any programme to those aged 12 to 23 months of age before the 2016/17 meningococcal season.
'The committee were also concerned about the serious risks to the infant programme that the use of Public Health England's buffer stock could present. Given these concerns, the committee agreed that they could not advise the Department of Health to consider such a catch-up programme.'
The JCVI said that, by December 1, all children aged between two and 19 months should have been offered Bexsero as part of the routine programme.
It added: 'Programmes to vaccinate older children, up to four years and 11 years of age (are) unlikely to be cost-effective.'
Vinny Smith, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: 'Vaccinating children under two years old against men B meningitis and septicaemia would have made a significant, life-saving difference to vulnerable members of our families, so we are extremely disappointed with the JCVI's conclusion.
'This is a significant opportunity missed to save young lives from this dreadful disease this winter.
'It is regrettable that vaccine supplies to protect these children cannot be secured in time for this year's meningitis season without jeopardising men B vaccinations for younger children who run an even greater risk, despite the renewed availability of vaccine for the private market.'
Liz Brown, chief executive of Meningitis Now, added: 'We are hugely dismayed by today's decision, but will continue to campaign passionately for all children under the age of five to receive this lifesaving vaccine.
'We stand for the many thousands of families who are unable to protect their children from this devastating disease because they cannot afford to buy the vaccine privately.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said extending the meningitis B programme to all children under two would put current stocks of the vaccine at risk and would be a waste of NHS cash
'We will continue to fight against a system that discriminates against the health of the nation's children on an ability to pay basis.'
Professor John Watso, the Government's Deputy Chief Medical Officer said: 'Under-ones are the most at risk from men B - we must do everything we can to make sure all babies are vaccinated.
'There is not enough vaccine to give to older children without putting the infant programme at risk.
'Men B is a terrible disease that can be devastating for families. This is why we look so carefully at the evidence for this vaccination programme, and we will continue to be guided by expert advice.'
Professor Andrew Pollard, JCVI chairman, said: 'The JCVI continually reviews vaccination programmes - including men B - and considers changes based on current scientific evidence.
'At our latest meeting, the committee concluded that a catch-up programme for older children cannot currently be advised.
'Offering a catch-up programme to children aged one to two years could be cost effective, but doing so could put the routine programme - and those babies with the highest rate of disease - at risk.
'This is because vaccinating older children may divert vaccine stocks that could otherwise be needed to sustain the routine programme.'
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