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Jabs against meningitis B infection welcomed by East Lancs families
NHS chiefs have bowed to public pressure and agreed to fund free vaccinations against the deadly Meningitis B infection - prompting celebrations in East Lancashire households.
Toni Burford, from Blackburn, and Laura Bell, from Burnley, were part of a major campaign to persuade the government to adopt the Bexsero vaccine, after it was initially rejected last year.
The Department of Health's independent advisory body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said last year the vaccine was not a cost-effective use of NHS money, while also calling for further evidence.
But in October, following a campaign by scientists, charities and leading doctors who wrote to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the JCVI issued a further statement saying it was considering new evidence and a range of views.
Yesterday’s announcement, which effectively marks a U-turn, said the vaccine should be introduced on the NHS if costs can be agreed with the manufacturer, Novartis.
Laura, 26, whose daughter Jessica-Fay suffered permanent brain damage after contracting Meningitis B in 2007, said: “I’m just amazingly happy because I wasn’t really expecting this news with it being turned down last time.”
Toni, 38, from Mill Hill, whose daughter Dannielle died from the disease in 2009, had collected 750 names on a petition calling for the vaccine.
She said: “This is great news but the more time they take, the more lives could be lost, so hopefully the next stage will be fast. We cannot change the past but together we can change the future.”
The jab would be added to the existing immunisation schedule, starting at two months of age.
The Department of Health said it will start negotiations on the cost of the vaccine as soon as possible.
Professor Andrew Pollard, chairman of the JCVI, said: "Meningitis B disproportionately affects babies and young children and can be devastating.
"After very careful consideration, JCVI concluded that use of the new vaccine would reduce cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia and lead to a reduction in deaths, limb amputations and brain injury caused by the disease."
About 1,870 people contract meningitis B each year and one in 10 dies. The bacterial infection causes inflammations of the brain and spinal cord and leaves one in four with life-altering effects, such as brain damage or limb loss.
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