Cumbrian dad hits out over meningitis vaccine delay
By Pamela McGowan Health reporter
A dad who daughter was struck down by meningitis as a baby has criticised the Government for failing to act on a crucial vaccine that could save lives and prevent children being left disabled.
Mike Story, whose daughter Olivia lost both legs and an arm to the illness, is joining national calls for the Meningitis B (MenB) vaccine to be rolled out urgently before more youngsters die.
The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) has accused the Government of breaking its promise to review "unfair" vaccine rules that deny access to the life-saving vaccine for many pre-school children. It comes a year after the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Kent, sparking the biggest ever national health petition as 820,000 people called on the Government to make the vaccine widely available.
The MRF estimates that 400 cases of MenB in children under five could have been avoided if fairer rules were in place. It added that a review promised by the Government should have been completed last year but has now been delayed until this autumn at the earliest.
Mike, of Carlisle, has backed criticism of the Government for refusing to roll out the vaccine - currently only given to babies aged two months. Parents who wish to have older children vaccinated must currently pay privately.
Mike said his daughter is lucky to be alive at all, but now lives with significant disabilities as a result of meningitis.
After reading Faye's story he said: "This could so easily have been us. I don't think that the Government are doing enough to publicise the threat of meningitis and the long term effects it has.
"We have the ability to eradicate this illness in this country through the vaccine. One life lost or one child left disabled is too many.
"The government need to start listening, rolling out the vaccine and publicising not only the symptoms but the effects meningitis has to make people aware of how it changes lives. I totally feel for the parents of this girl."
MRF is also concerned that the Government's vaccine review won't be open to public consultation.
Vinny Smith, chief executive of MRF, said: “Introducing the MenB vaccine for babies was a major step forward and we know it is already reducing cases in the under-ones. However, only about one quarter of all cases occur in this age group.
"Older children were denied access because of unfair rules. The Government's report needs to be published urgently and needs to be open to scrutiny so that fairer decisions on vaccines can be made."