South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that the Scottish Government will not rule out the introduction of a new meningitis B vaccine – despite the refusal of the UK Government to back the life-saving drug. 

Ms McAlpine raised the issue after being approached by constituents including Michael Pattie who lost his son to the disease and who asked Ms McAlpine for help this summer. She questioned the decision by the Joint Council on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVCI) – the body that advises governments on immunisation in the UK- not to recommend that vaccine on the grounds that it is not cost effective.

Earlier this year the vaccine for the B strain of the disease, which accounts for half of all meningitis deaths was passed by the European Medicines Agency. However the UK government’s decision came as a blow to campaigners.

Ms McAlpine asked a question in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday to ask whether Scotland could consider acting alone in vaccinating children against Meningitis B.

Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson said:

“I recognise the devastating impact this condition can have on families and it’s important we look at taking forward a whole range of measures to try and prevent that from happening again in the future.

“I understand the JCVI are due to consider the matter again at their next meeting on the 2nd of October, following which we would then expect to receive further advice from them. At that point we will consider what further action may be necessary here in Scotland.”

He Added:

“The JCVI is there to advise the government, however final decisions would be a matter for the Scottish Government to take itself.”

Ms McAlpine said:

“I have constituents in Dumfries who have campaigned tirelessly in support of meningitis research and in particular the development of a vaccine for the B strain of the disease which causes half of all meningitis deaths, and I would thank them for bringing this issue to my attention.

“I welcome the news that Scotland is not bound by the JCVI and will write to the minister asking him to look beyond the cost benefit analysis of JCVI and remember the devastating effect on families. If even a proportion of deaths are prevented it will be worthwhile.

“Scotland’s NHS is already independent and far superior to the service in the rest of the UK which is being privatised.  If Scotland were to introduce the vaccine we could protect our own children while being a beacon of good practice for the other nations on these Islands”.