Campaigners for expanding the scope of routine meningitis B vaccination in the UK say they are disappointed with a decision that a programme in infants aged one to two is not feasible.
A petition that sought routine vaccination for older children reached more than 815,000 signatures following the widely-publicised death of two year old Faye Burdett last year.
But while conceding that the Men B vaccine (GSK's Bexsero) could prove cost effective for children aged between 13 and 24 months, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there is insufficient supply to offer it to children in this younger age group without jeopardising stocks for the current immunisation programme.
The Meningitis Research Foundation argues that the risk of the virus posed to children aged 13 to 24 months is only slightly less than that for the approved vaccination age (under one year), and that a positive recommendation to expand its use "could have saved lives if the government had been able to implement the vaccine before the winter meningitis season".
"Vaccinating children under two years old against Men B meningitis and septicaemia would have made a significant, life-saving difference to vulnerable members of our families, so we are extremely disappointed with the JCVI's conclusion," noted MRF chief executive Vinny Smith. "This is a significant opportunity missed to save young lives from this dreadful disease this winter".
"We are hugely dismayed by today's decision, but will continue to campaign passionately for all children under the age of 5 to receive this lifesaving vaccine," added Meningitis Now chief executive Liz Brown. "We will continue to fight against a system that discriminates against the health of the nation's children on an ability to pay basis".
Both charities are also calling for a national evaluation to show if the vaccine can prevent teenagers carrying the infection, as called for by the JCVI more than two years ago, alongside a reform of the cost effectiveness framework forming the basis of decision on vaccines to secure a more level playing field.