The Say Communications Award for Excellence in Product Communications

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The first vaccine for Meningitis B: Saving lives through product communications

by Ruder Finn for Novartis Vaccines

Summary of work

The first vaccine for Meningitis B (MenB) provides a major weapon in the fight against a disease which kills and maims children, sometimes within hours.

A comprehensive and broad product launch communications strategy was implemented in November 2012 to establish the vital need for a MenB vaccination programme in the UK and provide a platform for stakeholders ready to champion the vaccine. However, six months later an interim statement from the Government’s advisory group (JCVI) announced that the vaccine should not be included in the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) on cost-effectiveness grounds. Mass media offered the quickest and most effective platform to drive ongoing debate of this decision and influence the influencers.

Our programme of impactful communications achieved over 400 million product-related media impressions, with two-thirds of coverage urging the swift implementation of a vaccination programme. This volume of noise combined with powerful patient voices and expert medical opinion compelled the JCVI to conduct additional analyses in 2013. In March 2014 the JCVI announced that the product WILL be included on the NIP, a decision which will save the lives and limbs of thousands of babies each year. For comparison, the last meningitis vaccine to be accepted on to the NIP took five years.

Judges’ comments

Brilliant! This is a polished piece of work that delivered true outcome by changing government policy around meningitis. It employed an expert and highly-focused media relations approach, demonstrating impressive evidence of outcomes. It is incredible too how they kept up momentum to ensure that key messages were repeated.