Bereaved families petition 10 Downing Street for new meningitis vaccine

Bereaved families petition 10 Downing Street for new meningitis vaccine

06 June 2013

A sister and cousin from Strabane in Northern Ireland and a mother from Workington in Cumbria who have lost loved ones to meningitis headed to No.10 today to hand in a petition with 30,000 names on it calling on the UK Government to introduce a new Meningitis B vaccine.

Stuart McDougall of the Asante Sana Foundation in Cumbria who raises awareness of the disease in the region on behalf of Meningitis Research Foundation decided to start a petition in January when he'd heard that a life saving Meningitis B vaccine had been issued a licence but not been introduced. The Devine Family in Northern Ireland joined forces with him when they heard about the delay in the vaccine being implemented and launched their “Time for Terri” petition to garner as many names as possible.

Jayne Hooks from Workington in Cumbria lost her 2 year old son Daniel to the disease in 2009, she said: “Stuart has been campaigning locally in my area to raise awareness of this disease and when I’d heard he’d started a petition to get a Meningitis vaccine introduced and that it was bring presented on the anniversary of Daniel’s death I wanted to get involved. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. It was like a living nightmare, dealing with the loss of my son and the fear that it might strike someone else in the family without warning.”

Karen Devine from Strabane lost her 16 year old sister Terri in 2008, days before Christmas and just three days after Terri first complained of flu-like symptoms. Karen said: “ Terri was so full of life. She had been at school sitting her exams on the Wednesday and a few days later we were told the devastating news that Terri was brain dead and there was nothing more the medical staff could do to help her. The team at Meningitis Research Foundation in Belfast supported us during this terrible time and afterwards we threw ourselves into fundraising for the charity to allow them to continue their vital work. A few months ago they told us that there was a vaccine for Meningitis B (which Terri had) and it was waiting to be introduced. We’d heard about Stuart’s petition in Cumbria and decided to set up our own “Time for Terri” petition in Northern Ireland. We are determined to put as much pressure as possible on the decision makers to have this vaccine introduced as part of the routine vaccination programme. We know we can’t get Terri back, but we can campaign to help save the live’s of other children.”

Meningitis and septicaemia affect around 3,600 people in the UK and Ireland annually and meningococcal B disease is responsible for the majority of cases of disease. These diseases can strike anyone without warning, killing one in ten, and leaving a quarter of survivors with life altering effects as severe as deafness, brain damage and loss of limbs.

A vaccine for Meningitis B – Bexsero was licensed by the European Commission in January but the UK & Irish Governments are still considering whether it should be introduced into the Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

Diane McConnell,Manager of the Ireland office and Deputy Chief Executive of MRF said: “Over 30,000 people have signed these petitions. These families know better than anyone how vitally important it is that our children are protected against all types of meningitis and septicaemia. Let’s hope the weight of public opinion encourages the Government to act and introduce Bexsero as soon as possible.”

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Sam Williams
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