Meningitis vaccine debate in the House of Commons

So today, ministers debated the Meningits B vaccine in the House of Commons. I had planned to watch it, summarise it and write an opinion piece today. But,it’s almost three hours long. So, a more detailed analysis will have to wait until (maybe) tomorrow.

In the meantime, from watching a small portion of it, it looks like the vaccine is not going to be offered to children over the age of one. Here are my initial thoughts:

  • This doesn’t surprise me. As I’ve mentioned previously, the vaccine is very new, and we need more data on how well it protects people, for how long, and whether it protects those who haven’t been vaccinated first.
  • This isn’t the end of the discussion though, and when more evidence is available it is going to be reconsidered.
  • The decision on who to vaccinate is bound by the rules of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. As was discussed in the parliamentary evidence sessions, these are now under review thanks to the Meningitis B petition so that is some good news.
  • That, and a major public awareness campaign is being launched. Another great thing to come out of the petition.
  • The risk of Meningitis B in a child over the age of one is low, but there is a risk and it’s a horrible disease. I think the government are right to wait to fully understand the mechanics of disease transmission before extending its use, and I’m also pleased to see that any potential unfairness inherent in how we think about vaccines and preventative medicine is being investigated. I’d take prevention over cure for any disease, and I think most of the general population would be with me.
  • I think the public’s involvement in the campaign and petition has been amazing. I think it’s a great opportunity for government to show how transparency in how decisions are made and for the general public to exercise their ability to shape public policy.

As I said, I’ll try to watch the whole thing tomorrow…kids permitting! What are your thoughts? I’d love to see every child protected from this horrible disease, and do hope one day we will…but on the basis of a strong scientific and economical argument.

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