Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reversed its decision not to recommend that the new meningitis B vaccine be made available on the NHS.


The original decision by the body not to recommend the vaccine on the grounds that it is not cost effective was challenged by Ms McAlpine after she was contacted by constituents who have lost children to the devastating disease.


Following the JCVI’s revised decision the Scottish Government is now working with health departments across the UK to ensure that the vaccine is introduced as quickly as possible into Scotland’s routine childhood immunisation plan.


Speaking in the chamber today (Tuesday) Public health Minister Michael Matheson MSP said:


“Since 1999 children in Scotland have been able to be vaccinated against Meningitis C but Meningitis B remains a great threat.


“A vaccine became licensed for use last year and I am delighted that the JCVI have just recommended its introduction in Scotland and across the UK.


“This is a major step in our ability to further protect children from the threat of meningitis and I’m sure all members will welcome the opportunity to have all children vaccinated in the near future.


Meningitis Research Foundation Scotland Manager, Mary Millar said:


“A fairer and more effective approach to implement this vaccine through the childhood immunisation schedule so that it’s free for all our children is vital and this is a huge step forward.


“It has been really good that the Scottish Parliament and MSPs are so accessible and have helped us keep this issue on the radar.


Speaking in chamber yesterday, Ms McAlpine said:


“I welcome the Minister’s obvious commitment to making this vaccine available in Scotland as quickly as possible in light of the JCVI’s decision


“As he will be aware, this is an issue I have raised with him on a number of occasions on behalf of constituents like Michael Pattie – who I first encountered last July when he wrote to me to express his bitter disappointment at the JCVI’s initial decision not to implement the drug.


“The B Strain of Meningitis can lead to lifelong disability as well as death, and although the JCVI’s original decision was based on questions regarding the cost effectiveness of the drug I believe that you cannot put a price on life, particularly not a child’s life


“Thousands of babies have to go to hospital every year – sometimes for prolonged stays – due to the symptoms of various viruses.


“Huge time and money could be saved by this not having to happen.


“Given the Scottish government’s preventative agenda I would be very interested to know if any work is being done to quantify how much money is being saved through immunisation programmes.”