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Calls for meningitis drug to be on NHS

A "life-saving" vaccine for a form of meningitis is now available in the UK - but only to patients who can pay for it, a charity has warned.

Meningitis Now said that the meningitis B immunisation will cost hundreds of pounds.

The price tag could exacerbate health inequalities between rich and poor people, the charity said.

It has been campaigning for the Bexsero vaccine to be available on the NHS.

A spokesman said Bexsero, the first Meningitis B vaccine to be licensed for use in the UK, could save thousands of lives and spare many from life-changing after-effects if introduced as part of the health service's vaccination programme.

In July, the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the UK and Scottish Government, delayed a decision to put Bexsero on the NHS.

The JCVI said there was insufficient evidence of cost-effectiveness and is currently reviewing new information on the drug.

Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman said: "We believe every parent should have the choice and chance to vaccinate their baby.

"We will continue our Beat it Now campaign to urge the Government to make the vaccine available through the NHS"

A spokesman for Novartis, which creates the vaccine, said they cannot discuss its price due to commercial sensitivity, but the NHS list price is £75 per dose.

Health Secretary Alex Neil has previously said the government will await the final recommendation of JCVI before making a decision on whether to introduce Bexsero in Scotland.

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