Vulnerable 'should get meningitis B vaccine for free'
THE first vaccine which protects against the potentially fatal meningitis B infection should be given free to at-risk groups such as people with Down syndrome, according to experts.
However, the national immunisation advisory group has yet to decide if the vaccine, which is currently only available privately, should be administered as part of the routine jabs given to all children at no cost.
The decision from the advisory committee was welcomed as a "first step" by the Meningitis Research Foundation yesterday.
Ireland has the highest incidence of meningitis B disease in Europe.
Up to 10pc of people affected will die and one in five are left with devastating lifelong complications, including brain damage, amputations and hearing loss.
Dianne McConnell, manager of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "We have been marking our 25th anniversary this year and this vaccine has been top of our agenda throughout that time."
She said their members had campaigned tirelessly to save lives from the disease.
"We are delighted that the committee has recognised the importance of the vaccine by recommending it for those at risk. Here's hoping the wider recommendation to implement the vaccine for all Ireland's children comes soon."
The committee advised that other at-risk groups should be included such as people with coeliac disease, stem cell recipients and those whose immune systems are low due to treatment.