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MPs to debate meningitis vaccine for all children

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Publicity for the vaccination has snowballed Publicity for the vaccination has snowballed due to public release of images

MPs will debate the provision of the meningitis vaccine following an online petition receiving a record 700,000 signatures.

The petition started by Lee Booth calls for government to give the meningitis B vaccine to all children at least until the age of 11, not just newborns.

The Bexsero vaccine became available on the NHS in September 2015, but only for children aged between two-five months or born after 1 July 2015. Parents wishing to vaccinate children older then this must pay for the vaccine privately.

Clinicians and experts have cautioned the suggestion to provide the vaccine to all children. James Stuart, visiting Professor at the University of Bristol and WHO advisor, said: 'It is important to emphasise that the UK is the first country to introduce MenB vaccination, that babies who are at highest risk are being offered vaccine and that we need to know how well the vaccine is working. So it may not be the time yet to widen the programme.'

Vinny Smith, the chief executive of the Meningitis Research foundation, agreed that more evidence would provide the strongest case for rolling out the vaccination further. 'This year it’s time to build the latest evidence. To show what is happening in reality now the vaccine programme has been introduced. MRF is funding research into how the vaccine is working right now,' he said.

'Keeping government commitment to our national vaccination programmes is an essential part of achieving that. And we don’t want to do anything that could undermine the vital public confidence in this crucial tool either,' he added.

The increased publicity of the vaccination and the petition is thought to have come from the release of the images of two-year-old Faye Burdett who was killed by the condition and the support from former England Rugby player Matt Dawson whose daughter recently recovered from meningitis.

GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of the vaccine said that due to high demand for the vaccine in 2015, they are experiencing supply constraints during the first half of 2016.

'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,' they said.

The UK was the first country in the world to include the meningitis B vaccination in the routine innoculation programme.

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I work as a practice nurse. When we were given a training session before the programme was rolled out in the north east of England I stood up and asked the question that since the disease was known to peak again before the age of 2 why we're all babies and children not given the vaccine.
I was told it was a cost implication.
It's morally unfair to choose one a cohort of children who will be expected to get the most benefit when it leaves out others still at risk.
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