CAMPAIGNERS across the country are celebrating the roll out of a lifesaving vaccine for deadly meningococcal group B (Men B) disease, a common cause of meningitis. Over the next decade the vaccine could potentially prevent more than 4,000 cases of meningococcal disease in children under five in the UK.
From 1 September the UK becomes the first country in the world to offer its newborn babies the new vaccine Bexsero via a national health service. Meningitis Now and its supporters have campaigned for over two years to see the ground-breaking vaccine free on the NHS.
Charity founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched the UK’s meningitis movement after losing his baby son Spencer to the disease in 1982, said: “I’m absolutely elated that we now have this vaccine being used to protect our babies. I’ve waited 33 years since losing my baby to the same strain for this day to happen. So many lives and so much misery will now be spared – more than 4,000 cases of meningococcal disease in children younger than five in the UK could potentially be prevented over the next decade by this vaccine.”*
Charity chief executive Sue Davie added: “We’re delighted to reach this milestone – it’s a tribute to our supporters’ selfless and tireless efforts. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that for many the roll out comes too late. We’re here for them for as long as they need us.”
Sue also sounded a note of caution. “Whilst this is good news – this does not mean meningitis is beaten. Our message is ‘don’t become complacent about meningitis’ – there are still not vaccines for all types.”
Advice from Meningitis Now is learn the symptoms, stay vigilant and seek immediate medical help if meningitis is suspected. The charity has vowed to continue its campaigning to see the Men B vaccine extended to other at risk groups. The infant Men B immunisation programme will be available for two month olds, with another dose at four months and booster at 12 months. There is also a limited catch-up programme for babies due their three and four-month vaccinations in September.
Family of meningitis movement co-founder to benefit from lifesaving vaccination
The granddaughter of Dr Jane Wells MBE, co-founder of the UK meningitis movement, will be one of the first to receive the meningococcal group B (Men B) vaccination. Dr Jane Wells, 58, of Stroud, will see her granddaughter, Daisy, born 29 May, vaccinated against the disease as part of the first round of catch-up vaccinations.
Dr Wells co-founded the Parents Group Act in 1985, which later became The Meningitis Trust, now Meningitis Now, after her son Dan contracted the disease. She said: “I’m so pleased that Daisy will benefit from the vaccine, it’s the perfect gift.”
“Meningitis has been prominent in our family – we have experienced three deaths and my son, Dan, survived the disease twice. With our history we were very worried for Daisy.”
Jane’s son, Dan, contracted HIB in 1984 aged two, and Men C in 1995, aged 13.
“When Dan first contracted meningitis it completely changed our lives – we were in a dark hole and no one could tell us anything. There was very little known about the disease, its after-effects or how long it would take him to recover.
“No parent or child should have to go through what we did. Dan struggled with his balance, tiredness, sickness and his education for years but luckily his after-effects were minor compared to what they could have been.
“Fortunately, when Dan contracted the disease a second time, treatment and recognition had improved drastically.” added Jane.
Sue Davie, Chief Executive at Meningitis Now, said:
“I’d like to offer my congratulations to Jane, Dan and family on the birth of Daisy. It’s great news and I’m delighted she will benefit from the vaccine.”
The lifesaving Men B vaccination, Bexsero, will be available from 1 September, free to all newborn babies as part of the NHS immunisation programme.
Jane continued: “The introduction of the Men B vaccine comes after years of campaigning and hard work. Though I’m humbled that Daisy will qualify for the catch-up, it comes too late for so many.”
Babies will be offered the vaccine at two months old, followed by a dose at four months and a booster at 12 months.
Sue added: “Whilst reaching this milestone is great news, I urge all parents to remain vigilant of the signs and symptoms of meningitis. There are still types for which there is no vaccine available.”
The Meningitis Trust was founded after the Stroud/Stonehouse outbreak in the 1980s. The charity merged with Meningitis UK in 2013 to become Meningitis Now, the UK’s leading charity working to save lives and rebuild the futures of people affected by meningitis through research, support and awareness.
For more information, visit www.MeningitisNow.org.