Consultation following concerns over long-awaited vaccination report

The government have published a key, and long-awaited, report into how they make decisions on which vaccines to fund.

The report was commissioned following public calls for greater transparency into why the Meningitis B vaccine was not made more widely available, despite the fact it protects children from a very serious illness with a fatality rate of 1 in 10.

Concerns were raised following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett in 2016, who was considered too old to have the vaccine. There followed a petition signed by 820,000 people, calling for all children to be vaccinated against the disease, but this was rejected as it was not deemed ‘cost-effective’.

The report, titled ‘Cost-Effectiveness Methodology for Immunisation Programmes and Procurement’ (CEMIPP), was due at the end of 2016 and health minister Steven Birne had been due to face questions by MPs this week on why it had not yet been published. It would appear there was no good reason for the delay, as the pressure from fellow MPs seems to have resulted in its publication.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Helen Jones, commented that while they are happy to see the government has finally published the overdue report, it is “… regrettable that the government has taken so long to act, when decisions about vaccines could save children’s lives. Charities and campaigners … have been left waiting for this report for far too long.”

The report, has already received criticism from campaigners and charities alike. The Meningitis Research Foundation have criticised it, as one of the report’s recommendations is for the NHS to lower the threshold of what is considered to be a cost-effective vaccine. This is not what campaigners and the 820,000 signatories were hoping for, as it will make it harder to justify paying for more expensive vaccines.

However, there could be a benefit to the reduction of the threshold, as it would give way for more research into the health benefits of vaccines in the long-term, and could result in more effective medicine. But this will not become clear for some time, and in the meantime anger continues to rise.

Some of this anger has come from the parents of Faye Burdett, who expressed their disappointment that children’s lives could be considered ‘not cost-effective’. They added that they are “disgusted with the health department for the way they have treated one of their biggest petitions” (the petition was the third largest in parliament’s history, although at the time it was the biggest), and that they had hoped a collective voice would be heard.

A public consultation is now underway, following a number of calls from charities, the pharmaceutical industry and parliamentary committees. The consultation will continue until 21st May 2018. Meanwhile, campaigners will wait with baited breath to see whether the government will increase the availability of these much needed vaccines to protect the lives of children like Faye, rather than reducing them to a cost-saving exercise.

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