SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has called for the Meningitis B vaccine to be rolled out for all children under 11.
Mr Durkan joined MPs from all parties and over 823,000 people across the UK who signed the largest-ever parliamentary petition to call for the lifesaving meningococcal B (Men B) vaccine to be extended to those most at risk – children up to the age of 11.
Speaking ahead of a parliamentary debate triggered by the petition, Mr Durkan met charities Meningitis Now and Meningitis Research Foundation at Westminster along with two-year-old Harmonie-Rose, who contracted Men B in 2014 resulting in a quadruple amputation. Mr Durkan was part of the parliamentary push for the successful introduction of the Men B vaccine for babies aged up to one, introduced last year, and also supported the local campaign by Derry parents Emma and Darren Cowey who lost their nine-month-old son, Jamie to Men B in November 2004.
He said: “This debate is in response to the public outcry which followed the death of two-year-old toddler Faye Burdett – who bravely fought for her life in a hospital bed with meningitis and septicaemia.
“Faye’s story highlighted the restrictive nature of the government’s current programme, which has only been offered to babies aged up to one. Faye died at the age of two on February 14 of this year. She was 18 months, too old to receive the vaccination that could have saved her life.
“It has occurred to me that if the government originally adhered to campaigners calling for the vaccine to be put in the Routine Immunisation Schedule of the NHS when it was first introduced in the EU, Harmonie-Rose would not have lost her limbs, and Faye would not have lost her life.
“It is in that spirit that I want the Men B vaccine to be extended – particularly for the under 5s – who would have been excluded from the roll-out of the vaccine.
“The government must review the current vaccine regime in order to protect children like Harmonie-Rose and Faye, who, through fluke of timing weren’t protected. The lives of so many families in Derry and across the North have been turned upside down by this disease. We have a vaccine that has the potential to save many of those young lives and we should be using it.”
Meningitis Now Chief Executive Liz Brown said: “I want to thank Mark for his continuing support and would encourage all MPs to argue the case for extending the Men B vaccine on behalf of the people they represent. We are sending a clear message to the government – put children’s lives before cost.”