A TEENAGER who lost her baby son to meningitis is urging the Government to make a new vaccine available to all children.
The drug, Bexsero, is the first Meningitis B vaccine licensed for use in the country and could save thousands of lives, especially among the under fives, who are most at risk from the disease.
Amy Hayes, 18, of Stanley, County Durham, is joining other families whose lives have been affected by the killer disease to support Meningitis UK’s new Beat It Now campaign.
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Ms Hayes, who is now studying a degree in contemporary arts at Bath University, lost her seven-month-old Oscar to meningitis last year.
She said: “Cost shouldn’t be a consideration in introducing the vaccine into the childhood immunisation programme because you can’t value a child’s life against giving a vaccine.”
Ms Hayes took Oscar to nursery on the morning of February 21, but received a call asking her to collect him as he just ‘wasn’t himself’.
She took him to the Royal Victoria Infirmary Children’s Hospital, in Newcastle, where her mother Christine worked.
Doctors checked him out, saying Oscar had a 48-hour bug which was going around, but his condition deteriorated and he was taken to the University Hospital of North Durham, where he was diagnosed with meningitis and transferred back to the RVI.
However, the disease spread to the baby’s brain, causing swelling which was difficult to control and he was declared brain dead at 1.15pm on February 24.
Ms Hayes is supporting Meningitis UK in calling for the urgent introduction of the vaccine into the Routine Childhood Immunisation Schedule, so children will receive it through the NHS to save as many lives as possible.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccination, will this summer decide whether the Meningitis B vaccine should be in the schedule and what age groups should receive it.
Ms Hayes added: “It’s a horrific disease. I went from having a healthy baby boy, who just got a cold to walking out of the hospital alone and ruined in the space of 24 hours.
“I had no idea meningitis could take hold so quickly. It can be fatal within four hours so it doesn’t even give people time to act, particularly if the symptoms aren’t obvious and they are similar to many other illnesses. That’s why the vaccine is so important.”
MENINGITIS FACT BOX
• Meningitis can kill in four hours.
• Classic symptoms include a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light.
• Symptoms of septicaemia (blood poisoning) include leg pain, cold hands and feet, and a rash.
• Around 3,400* people contract bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK each year.
• One in ten people die and one in four are left with permanent disabilities such as limb loss, blindness, deafness or brain damage.
• Babies, children under five years, young people aged 14-24 and the elderly are most at risk.
• Every week, six families face the traumatic loss of a loved one to meningitis.
• In the past 20 years, vaccines have been developed to protect against Hib, Meningitis C and Pneumococcal Meningitis but people still aren’t fully protected against all forms. • It is important to trust your instincts. If you suspect something is wrong, seek medical help immediately.
*Figures from Health Protection Agency, Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland) and Hospital Episode Statistics. Represents average number of cases over past ten years.