U.K. rejects petition demanding meningitis B vaccine for all children

The U.K. rolled out its meningitis B vaccination program for babies in September, becoming the first country to add GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Bexsero to its routine schedule. A petition demanding that it be expanded for all children quickly gathered steam. The Department of Health rejected the petition on Wednesday, saying that offering the jab to all children would not be cost-effective.

"The NHS budget is a finite resource, it is therefore essential that [the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's] recommendations are underpinned by evidence of cost-effectiveness," the Department of Health said, as quoted by BBC. "Offering the vaccine outside of JCVI's advice would not be cost effective, and would not therefore represent a good use of NHS resources which should be used to benefit the health and care of the most people possible."

Bexsero, is available on the National Health Service for babies aged two months, with a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. Parents who wish their older children to receive the vaccine must pay out of pocket. This high demand has led to a shortage of the vaccine in private clinics outside of the NHS.

U.K. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

This isn't the first time that pricing has plagued the vaccine. The U.K. started pricing negotiations for Bexsero in August 2014, back when it still belonged to Novartis ($NVS). At the time, the list price for the jab was £75 ($105) per dose, a price that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he "cannot justify." Seven months later, after GSK got the vaccine in an asset swap with Novartis, the price was bargained down to £20 ($28) per dose, bringing the total cost per three-dose course to £60 ($84) per child.

This concession finally brought Bexsero to the U.K.'s national immunization schedule. The deal allows the NHS to vaccinate nearly 800,000 babies annually at an average cost of £16 million.

- here's the BBC story
- and here's the petition

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