Ministers publish long-delayed vaccine report on eve of grilling
The Department of Health has published a long-delayed report on the funding of vaccination programmes, almost two years after promising to release it.
Demands for the release of the 2016 paper have come from two parliamentary committees, as well as campaigners behind an 820,000-signature petition for all children to be given the meningitis B jab.
The House of Commons Petitions Committee said it was "regrettable" that the Government had taken so long to act on the report, which includes recommendations for "significant" changes to the way funds are allocated.
Publication came just a day before health minister Steve Brine was due to appear before the committee to explain the failure to release the paper, which the Government had promised in April 2016 to publish by the end of that year.
The Cost-Effectiveness Methodology for Immunisation Programmes and Procurement (CEMIPP) paper was commissioned following debate in 2014 over the introduction of a vaccine for meningitis B.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers on new vaccines, requested a review of the rules on how it determines whether proposed programmes are cost-effective.
Now there will be a three-month consultation on the report's recommendations, including some which the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said would "result in a significant change from current practice".
Speaking before the announcement of the report's publication, the chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, Vinny Smith, said that fair rules on the availability of vaccines could have avoided 400 cases of meningitis B among under-fives.
Petitions Committee chair and Labour MP Helen Jones said: "Since 2016, the Petitions and Health Committees have been urging the Government to publish this report, so we are pleased that it has finally done so.
"It is, however, regrettable that the Government has taken so long to act, when decisions about vaccines could save children's lives. Charities and campaigners, including families who have lost children to meningitis, have been left waiting for this report for far too long.
"We have also been pressing the Government to commit to a consultation. It is very welcome indeed that the Government has at last agreed to open up these proposals for public scrutiny. The Government must now listen to the voices of survivors and bereaved families."
A DHSC spokesman said: "Our vaccination programme is world-leading - we constantly review the latest evidence, prioritising new and existing vaccines we know offer the best protection.
"This report was commissioned to consider if the methods used to assess cost-effectiveness of vaccination programmes should change and is now open for consultation. We will carefully consider the responses before making any decision."