Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Symptoms of narcolepsy include sudden, extreme sleepiness, nosebleeds and light-headedness
A potentially life-saving booster jab aimed at people with narcolepsy or sleep apnoea has been given the green light by the UK government.
Health bosses initially rejected the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommendation after concerns over payment and other issues.
But ministers overturned the decision after meeting with Good Samaritans – the charity that runs the scheme.
Those with narcolepsy cannot make proper eye contact, have night sweats, and suffer from lots of pauses in breathing during sleep.
It is hoped that narcolepsy sufferers and those at risk of sleep apnoea, a rare form of sleep disorder that can cause coma, will now get a two-fold boost in protection.
Narcolepsy is a life-long condition, with about 2,000 people diagnosed in the UK each year, with a high prevalence in people from Indian and Bangladeshi heritage.
Although treatment to moderate it has been available, for some it is the only option. It is expensive – approximately £100,000 a year – and many are unable to afford it.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, whose mother-in-law – Pamela Bridgen – was diagnosed with narcolepsy, has led calls for the booster jab to be available to all those at risk.
Mr Bridgen told the BBC’s Today programme that people with narcolepsy “can be kept up in the night in a very scary and helpless situation, where they do not have the same kind of contact with other people”.
In late January it was revealed that Government officials had previously said a two-dose course of the jab was “too costly”, although this has now been removed.
More: Health secretary defends decision to press ahead with jab despite vaccine rationing warning
A Nice spokesman said: “Early access to the narcolepsy booster vaccine for at-risk people with the condition is an important step towards tackling the disease’s burden, and we welcome the news that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) have reversed their previous decision to not recommend the narcolepsy booster vaccine for use in England”.
Earlier this year, the National Health Service rationing body NICE said it would not fund a narcolepsy booster vaccine because it was too expensive – with claims the price had risen from £109,000 to £130,000 for a two-dose course of the jab.
A government spokesperson said the new two-dose course would be given to any member of the public aged 18 to 50 with a medical statement saying they had narcolepsy or a family history of narcolepsy.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The jab reduces the risk of narcolepsy sufferers falling asleep during the day or going to bed too late
They also said it would be given to people at high risk of sleep apnoea, which is a sleeping disorder that can cause serious injury and death if untreated.
The injection lasts for six months and has not yet been licensed in the UK.
The NHS currently offers one dose of narcolepsy booster jab to all three groups of people who can be affected by narcolepsy, and pays £96 for that.
Other countries around the world that have offered to pay for the narcolepsy booster vaccine include the US, Italy, Norway, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.