Meningitis B vaccine programme welcomed

Mark Durkan MP pictured with Emma and Darren Cowey from Tullyally.
Mark Durkan MP pictured with Emma and Darren Cowey from Tullyally.

A local family who lost their young son eleven years ago when he contracted Meningitis B, have welcomed the news that the Meningitis B vaccine is to be made available free on the NHS.

Emma and Darren Cowey campaigned for over 11 years to have the vaccine made available and are “delighted” at the news.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday Emma said, “It has been a long and hard battle and when we got the news on Sunday, we weren’t expecting it so it’s just brilliant.

“However, the programme won’t start until September. I’m sure they are reasons why it takes so long but we would have liked it to have started in the summer.

“Meningitis is most prevalent in the autumn so it would have made more sense to have children vaccinated ahead of the autumn months.

“That said, we are so glad that the vaccine will soon be free to all children.”

Emma and her husband Darren lost their son Jamie in 2011, when he was just 9 months old.

“We went from having everything to nothing in less than 24 hours.

“At 2pm on the Sunday he seemed unwell, but we thought it was a cold. We attended out of hours at 4pm and were sent home. It progressed so quickly and when we got to hospital at 8pm that night, his body was covered in a rash by 10pm.

“Jamie held on overnight but he passed away at 11.10am the next morning, on Monday 1st November.

“I still can’t believe it happened, but over time, you learn to live with it.”

The couple now have two other children, Jack (9) and Amy (5) and Emma admits that she is very protective of them.

“When they were very young I panicked every time they were slightly unwell. They’re older and stronger now so I try to let them go a bit.

“But I would say to any parent, ‘Trust yout instincts’. You know your child better than anyone else.”

The couple also threw themselves into campaigning for the Meningitis B vaccine to be made available to all children.

Emma said, “It helped us look to the future and if we could spare even one child from the illness then it was a victory.

“We are absolutely delighted that it has now become a reality.

“Were so proud of everyone who helped us along the way and gave their support.

“Mark Durkan MP was absolutely brilliant, our thanks go to him too.”

Mr Durkan, who tabled parliamentary motions and campaigned at Westminster with the charity Meningitis Now calling on the government to introduce the new vaccine, has also welcomed the news.

He said, “I am delighted at the news of this great achievement – and that after a year of protracted price negotiations Bexsero will now be included in the Routine Immunisation Schedule of the NHS.

“This vaccine can prevent 82 per cent of cases of Meningitis B and the lifelong damage and loss of life it tragically brings.”

For more information on meningitis and the new vaccine programme see