Babies in Northern Ireland could be given the same access to life-saving meningitis B vaccinations as their counterparts in England and Scotland if “funding can be identified”, it has emerged.
It was confirmed at the weekend that all babies in England and Scotland can be vaccinated against meningitis B from September.
Parents will be able to get jabs for the strain of the deadly brain infection for youngsters at the ages of two and four months, with a booster when they are one year old, the Department of Health and Scottish government announced.
They said that the infant programme, available from GPs, means England and Scotland are the first places in the world to begin “national and publicly-funded meningitis B immunisation”.
Meanwhile teenagers aged 17 and 18 in the final year of sixth-form and other students aged 19 to 25 who are starting university this year will also be able to receive a vaccination against the A, C, W and Y strains of the infection from August.
A spokesman from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: “Despite the very challenging financial situation the minister is determined to try to identify the funding necessary to be able to introduce the Men ACWY and the Men B programmes in August and September in line with the rest of the UK.”
Around 1,200 people, mainly babies and children, fall victim to meningitis caused by the meningococcal group B bacteria each year in the UK, with around one in 10 dying from the infection.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the plan to roll out vaccinations in March after the Government reached a deal with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. The decision followed controversy over the Bexsero MenB vaccine after it emerged it was still not available to children despite being recommended a year previously.