SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has expressed his deep frustration to the British Prime Minister David Cameron at continuing delays over the introduction of a new vaccine which would protect babies against Meningitis B.
The UK has one of the world’s highest Meningitis B rates and it kills more under-fives than any other infectious disease.
In March 2014, the British government said the new vaccine – Bexsero – would be given free to babies up to age one on the NHS, subject to price negotiations with developer Novartis.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Durkan (who played a pivotal role in the Meningitis Now ‘Beat it Now!’ campaign to bring in the new vaccine), said:
“It is now two years since a meningitis B vaccine was licensed for use across the EU. To achieve its effect of being able to prevent more than 80% of meningitis B cases here, it needs to be on the routine immunisation schedule for the NHS. The Prime Minister sounded hopeful in the House in November. Can he give us some indication as to when there will be a conclusion to the negotiations between the government and Novartis?
The Prime Minister replied: “I am afraid I cannot give any further update; the discussions are still under way. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this would be a vital step forward, because of the horrors of this disease. But he also knows that there would be huge cost issues if we were to make sure that this was made available. So those discussions with the drug company are vital. They are ongoing, and if I can give him an update in a letter, I will do so.”