The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation, has recommended that the meningitis B vaccine should not be extended to all UK children under the age of two.
The vaccine was introduced in September 2015 for babies aged up to 12 months in whom it was deemed to be marginally cost effective. However, a petition signed by more than 800,000 people calling for the vaccine to be given to all children under the age of 11 prompted the JCVI to consider the effectiveness of a “small-scale” catch-up programme for children aged 12 to 23 months.
The committee made its decision using real-world data from the first few months of the UK’s Bexsero vaccination programme for children up to 12 months – which is the first meningitis B vaccination programme in the world.
The JCVI has concluded that while a programme to vaccinate children aged 12–23 months of age could be cost effective, there was insufficient vaccine available.
“There was unlikely to be any vaccine available… to those aged 12 to 23 months of age before the 2016/17 meningococcal season,” it said, therefore a decision to increase the age limit would require the use of Public Health England’s buffer stocks.
The committee also expressed concerns “about the serious risks to the infant programme that the use of Public Health England’s buffer stock could present”, and as a consequence agreed that “they could not advise the Department of Health to consider such a catch-up programme”.