Scottish meningitis campaigner asks #WheresOurVaccine?

Scottish meningitis campaigner asks #WheresOurVaccine?

19 March 2015

Local mum Gemma Lessells from Inverkeithing has written to her MP to ask for their help in ensuring the long overdue introduction of the meningococcal Group B (MenB) vaccine.

MenB has for decades been the single largest cause of meningitis in the UK. Young children and adolescents are most at risk. It leads to death in 10% of all cases and to long-term after effects in a further 36%. Department of Health (DH) surveys have consistently shown that it is the most feared of all illnesses by the parents of young children in our country and each year it costs the NHS millions of pounds in medical litigation.

A vaccine against MenB which was recommended by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on 21 March 2014 to be routinely given to children in the UK, but almost a year on there are no signs that the vaccine will become part of childhood immunisation programme anytime soon. Meanwhile cases of MenB continue to occur and babies, children and adults are dying and being badly disabled as a result.

Charity Meningitis Research Foundation has launched the #WheresOurVaccine campaign to bring pressure to bear to introduce the life-saving vaccine as soon as possible.

Gemma Lessells said: “I am supporting the #WheresOurVaccine campaign because my son Matthew contracted meningitis B in 2010 when he was 13 months old. He was quiet and had a temperature at 4pm. He started being sick at 6 pm and by 10 pm he was in hospital fighting for his life after collapsing in my arms and turning blue at the lips. He had lots of classic symptoms, but no rash, so meningitis was the last thing we suspected. The rash appeared when he was in hospital but by this point he was on antibiotics so we were able to reason that he was getting the best care. He had canulas everywhere, they were taking his blood pressure every 15 minutes. His heart rate was 210 and his temperature on admission was 40.9. We were incredibly lucky - Matthew survived the illness with relatively few side effects. He has delayed expressive speech and suffered night terrors following his hospital stay. We are also in the process of discussing possible behavioural side effects with his Health Visitor, but other than that we have a gorgeous healthy happy boy with a laugh that lights up a room. We want this vaccine brought in because no-one should go through what we did and no child should die from a vaccine preventable disease.”

Gemma has written to local MP Thomas Docherty to ask him to ask the Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, why the introduction of vaccine is taking so long. She has also written to prospective parliamentary candidates in the constituency to find out their views on MenB implementation before the forthcoming general election.
Sara also comments: “Anyone who agrees with me that this life-saving vaccine is taking too long to implement can make their feelings known by signing the online #WheresOurVaccine petition at ”

Chris Head, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation said: “We appreciate that the JCVI stated that the vaccine recommendation was subject to a cost-effective price being agreed between the vaccine manufacturer and the DH, but these price negotiations have been ongoing since July 2014 and have stalled. The cost effective price range for this vaccine was published in October last year with an upper limit only just over £20 - a substantial saving on the official NHS list price of £75. As both the manufacturer and the government are negotiating within this published cost effective range, we cannot see why an accommodation cannot be reached.”

“We also realise there are many pressures on NHS budgets but this Government claims to want people to be fit for life throughout their life. Surely the answer is to protect future generations by vaccinating to prevent disease? We’d also like to see a MenB vaccine for older children introduced and a programme for adolescents. A number of deaths at university at the beginning of the academic term demonstrate meningitis is still a very real threat to this age group.”

“We hope that by Gemma writing to her MP Thomas Doherty we can find out why the vaccine still hasn’t been implemented and when it will be. We will not stop until every child is protected from this disease.”

Media contact:
To speak to Gemma Lessells please contact Mary Millar or Ashleigh Hunt on 0131 510 2345/ or

Sam Williams
Media Relations Manager

Hi, I’m Sam and I’m MRF's PR Manager.

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