Ministers have been told that a life-saving new vaccine to fight meningitis would not be 'cost-effective' to routinely offer on the NHS.
The vaccine Bexsero targets a large number of the 1,000 strains of meningitis B and was hailed as a breakthrough when it was licensed this year.
But an independent panel says it would not be cost-effective – despite having no price for the new vaccine – as the disease is on the decline.
In Britain there are 1,870 cases of meningitis B each year and up to 200 deaths, half among the under fives. As many as 400 children are left with serious lifelong complications such as limb amputations, blindness, deafness and brain damage.
Vaccination programmes have been used for pneumococcal meningitis and the C and Hib strains, but there is currently no B vaccine in the UK.
The decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) means worried parents must buy the vaccine privately.
The move has been criticised by campaigners. Meningitis Trust chief executive Sue Davie said: "In terms of cost – what price can you put on a life? [It] should be negotiated between the drug company and Government because it needs to be on the NHS to save the greatest number of lives."
However, Dr David Elliman, immunisation representative for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "Nobody doubts that meningococcal B disease can be catastrophic and that all reasonable means should be taken to prevent it.
"However, before introducing a new vaccine or drug, it is important to be sure that not only is it safe and effective, but bearing in mind the increasing financial pressures on the NHS, it also has to be cost-effective.
"Money spent on the vaccine is money not spent on something else. Unfortunately, evidence on these points is either lacking or conflicting.
"It should be possible to fill some of these gaps in knowledge and then the decision should be reconsidered."
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