An important public health story leads our front page today – news that will be welcomed by hundreds of leading scientists and researchers. The decision to make the vaccine for meningitis B available free of charge on the NHS, as part of the UK’s routine child immunisation programme, is a laudable example of an “expert panel” performing a public U-turn.
As our Health Correspondent Charlie Cooper writes, “what looks like a harmless bout of flu can, overnight, turn into a life-threatening condition”. The disease is devastating, and it is right that in 2014, when the health service has an annual budget north of £100bn, we provide this vaccination free to babies. (Although we have separate, devolved health services, changes to vaccination programmes tend to be made UK-wide.)
The vaccine had earlier been blocked by an independent committee, on the grounds of expense. Well-off parents could have their children vaccinated privately – but unsurprisingly the vast majority of these sales were in the wealthiest places, leaving poorer families to play roulette with their babies’ lives. Although the vaccine is not 100 per cent effective, a mass programme will save hundreds of lives. Good news, then, with which to start a Friday.
I’m delighted that Janet Street-Porter is joining i. She’s loud, she’s proud, and she will be writing a new column for i every Saturday, starting in tomorrow’s paper. Please do email over the weekend in response; we’ll publish a selection of reader letters on Monday.
Also starting in tomorrow’s i, following reader demand: daily Killer Sudoku. On Saturday it will run on the Puzzles pages, and during the week you will find it tucked away near the end of the News section – when it will be an additional puzzle, rather than a replacement for any current favourite.