Parents who lost their baby son to meningitis are urging the Government to make a new vaccine against Meningitis B – one of the deadliest forms of the disease – available to all children.
The drug, Bexsero, is the first Meningitis B vaccine licensed for use in the UK and could save thousands of lives, especially among the under-fives, who are most at risk from the disease.
Meningitis B, the most common form of the disease in the UK, affects around 1,870 people each year and every week six people, many of them children, die of the disease.
It kills one in 10, and one in three suffer life-changing after-effects such as limb loss or brain damage.
Nikki and Tony Busby, of Neyland, are uniting with other families whose lives have been affected by meningitis to support Meningitis UK’s new Meningitis B: Beat It Now campaign.
They are pressing the Government to urgently introduce the vaccine into the Routine Childhood Immunisation Schedule, so children will have it through the NHS and it will save as many lives as possible.
They are emphasising the need for speed as the last major meningitis drug – the pneumococcal vaccine – took five years to be introduced into the schedule.
Tony and Nikki Busby’s 10-month-old son Kadyn died on Christmas Day just hours after contracting meningococcal septicaemia.
Kadyn appeared to be his happy normal self on the morning of Christmas Eve 2011, but hours later he became lethargic and sick.
Tony and Nikki took him straight to A&E where 40 minutes later he developed a rash all over his body. At 2.20am on Christmas morning, doctors delivered the devastating news that Kadyn could not be saved.
Nikki, aged 29, said: “Meningitis absolutely shattered our lives within hours and has ever since.
“It’s important that the vaccine is brought into the immunisation programme – it’s the difference between life and death. It could save thousands of lives.
“There’s no need for a debate about it – meningitis can kill within hours. The Government just needs to act.
“No parent should have to go through what we went through.”
Meningitis UK Founder, Steve Dayman MBE, who lost his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia in 1982, said: “This ground-breaking vaccine is the most important development since I began my fight against meningitis 30 years ago.
“The Government must introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the immunisation schedule as soon as possible; it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering.
“Any delay in giving people the vaccine means lives lost.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccination, will decide whether the Meningitis B vaccine should be in the schedule and what age groups should receive it.
They are due to consider the vaccine this summer and will look at factors such as price, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines in the schedule.
Studies show that Bexsero, developed by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, will protect against 73 per cent of Meningitis B strains in the UK.
Despite such success, there is still an urgent need to develop new and improved meningitis vaccines.
It is said there is more need than ever for a Meningitis B vaccine with even greater coverage, and there are still several deadly forms of meningitis for which no vaccines exist.
To support Meningitis UK’s Meningitis B: Beat it Now campaign, please visit www.meningitisuk.org/ beatitnow.
You can upload a message of support to the photo wall and email your MP.