Mum of Stotfold boy severely disabled by meningitis says financial gain over vaccine is ‘disgusting’

Lisa Zsentko with her son Stone, who contracted meningitis in October 2012.

Lisa Zsentko with her son Stone, who contracted meningitis in October 2012. - Credit: Archant

The mother of a boy left severely disabled after contracting meningitis is calling on a pharmaceutical giant with a base in Stevenage to slash the cost of the vaccine and make it available to more people.

The mother of a boy left severely disabled after contracting meningitis is calling on a pharmaceutical giant with a base in Stevenage to slash the cost of the vaccine and make it available to more people.

The life of Lisa Zsentko, of Kingsway in Stotfold, was turned upside down when her 11-month-old son, Stone, contracted meningitis in October 2012. Stone, who is now four, was left blind and severely brain damaged, with spastic quadraplegia and cerebral palsy.

In September last year, the national immunisation programme for meningitis B started – with babies given the vaccine alongside their other routine vaccinations at eight weeks, 16 weeks and one year.

An online petition asking the government for a rollout programme to vaccinate all children up to the age of at least 11 was signed by 823,345 people and as a result has now been debated in Parliament.


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Part of the debate surrounded the cost of the vaccine – known as Bexsero – which has an NHS list price of £75 plus VAT, with private providers – which include Stevenage-based GlaxoSmithKline – charging up to £700.

MP Helen Grant said: “GlaxoSmithKline reported annual profits of £10.3 billion in 2013. Its website devotes several pages to corporate social ​responsibility. The company would show real leadership and great responsibility if it was prepared to relax further the price of the Bexsero vaccine.”

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When the Comet asked Lisa, a mother-of-six, what she thought of this idea, she said: “Yes, I most definitely agree. It will be more affordable for parents to protect their children. It’s disgusting that they make money out of it. It should be sold at cost.”

During the parliamentary debate, MP Ben Howlett said: “There needs to be a conversation with GlaxoSmithKline about the pricing of a catch-up programme.

“From September 2017, we will start to receive information from the current vaccination programme. The data will be incredibly useful in helping to formulate a plan from September 2017, but while we sit waiting for the data, children are contracting the disease, with life-changing consequences. Families going through that trauma will not be comforted by the fact that from 2017 we will have a better idea of what to do.”

A spokesman for GSK said: “The Government has a well-established, effective vaccines procurement process to ensure vaccination programmes are affordable and this is the framework we work within.

“GSK is confident the price agreed with the Department of Health offers exceptional value for the NHS.

“Parents of children who are not vaccinated as part of the existing national programme may be able to get their child vaccinated privately, but the cost of doing this is set by the private clinic or pharmacist and not GSK.”

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