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Hurry up with meningitis vaccine deal, government told

A meningitis vaccine that is the subject of price negotiations should be introduced as soon as possible “to save lives”, a charity has warned.

It is now a year since the body that advises the Department of Health on immunisation recommended the Bexsero MenB vaccine should be made available to children.

Discussions between the department and GSK over the price of the vaccine began in August last year, following the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

It said the vaccine should be offered to children at two months, four months and one year.

At the time the deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson said he hoped a “cost-effective price is reached rapidly” but warned that NHS funds must be used “as effectively as possible”.

 

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said he hoped a deal with GSK could be reached “very soon”, but stressed that the vaccine had to be introduced at the “right price”.

Last week health chiefs announced a plan to launch a large-scale immunisation programme to protect teenagers against the deadly meningitis W disease after a steep rise in cases.

But, in welcoming the announcement, Sue Davie, of charity Meningitis Now, called for movement on the meningitis B vaccine, saying it could protect children from the W strain also.

Davie said: “We also note the JCVI's recognition that the MenB vaccine is likely to provide direct protection to infants against the MenW strain, but remain deeply concerned that the introduction of the MenB vaccine continues to be held up in negotiations, some eight months after they began.

“Surely now we will see the negotiations between the government and vaccine producer being concluded and the MenB vaccine introduced to save lives now, and protect babies not only against MenB but MenW as well.”