The UK Government has rejected calls for the meningitis B vaccine to be given to children of all ages, saying it would not be cost effective for the NHS and would not represent a good use of NHS resources.
The response comes after 800,000 people added their names to a petition - the most-signed in parliamentary history - calling for the Bexsero vaccine to be given to all children aged up to 11.
With the ‘trigger’ of 700,000 signatures reached, a debate will be scheduled once the House of Commons has heard from medical experts, as well as some of the affected families.
Support for the petition surged after the parents of two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Maidstone, shared pictures of her dying from meningitis B on social media. Faye died on Valentine's Day after fighting the infection for 11 days.
The campaign’s profile was also raised by former England rugby captain Matt Dawson, who revealed that his two-year-old son Sam recovered after battling with- meningitis C.
The Department of Health statement points out that it was following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on the cost-effectiveness of vaccinations.
The statement said: " With this programme, our priority is to protect those children most at risk of Men B, in line with JCVI's recommendation.
"The NHS budget is a finite resource. It is therefore essential that JCVI's recommendations are underpinned by evidence of cost-effectiveness.
"Offering the vaccine outside of JCVI's advice would not be cost effective, and would not therefore represent a good use of NHS resources which should be used to benefit the health and care of the most people possible.
"When any new immunisation programme is introduced, there has to be a cut-off date to determine eligibility.
"While this is extremely difficult for parents whose children aren't eligible, there is no other way of establishing new programmes to target those at highest risk without introducing inequalities."
Bexsero is available on the NHS for babies aged two months with further doses at four months and a booster at 12 months.
However, parents with older children vaccinated must pay privately, and a worldwide shortage of Bexsero means stocks are currently low, although the HNS programme is unaffected.