Call for all children to get meningitis B jab rejected amid cost and stock fears
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.
The 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 calling for the jab Bexsero to be given to all children.
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 who wish to have older children vaccinated must pay privately.
In its latest meeting, the JCVI considered a catch-up programme to capture all under-twos.
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.
It 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."
Meningitis Now chief executive Liz Brown 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. We will continue to fight against a system that discriminates against the health of the nation's children on an ability to pay basis."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor John Watson 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."