I fully appreciate that this is an emotive issue and I sympathize greatly with those effected.
I am aware that meningococcal infections can be very serious, causing meningitis and blood poisoning, and this is most common in babies and young children.
Consequently, I am proud that England is now the first country in the world to implement a national, publically funded meningitis B vaccination programme. Since September 2015, babies have been offered the Men B vaccine aged 2 months old, with boosters at 4 months and 12 months, as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme.
The vaccine is also available for the small number of older children who are at increased risk of infection, such as those with specific immune problems.
I am aware that the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on all immunisation matters has not recommended the use of the Meningitis B vaccine in other age groups, including older children. They advise that for these children the vaccination is not a cost-effective use of NHS resources. However, JCVI has advised that further research is needed into its effectiveness in preventing transition of infection in adolescents and I am assured that the Government is working with health organisations to address this. JCVI keeps the eligibility criteria of all vaccination programmes under review and considers new evidence as it becomes available.
I realise the concern surrounding this issue and I have spoken to many experts who have assured me that the risk of a child contracting meningitis B drops drastically after the age of two, so I am confident that the Government is taking the best approach.