Family who lost Hannah, 8, to meningitis urge Government rethink on vaccine
A WEEK after the Government decided it was too expensive to introduce a meningitis B vaccine into the childhood immunisation programme, a mother who lost her daughter to the illness has vowed to ramp up the campaign.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said they would not endorse a new vaccine until more research is carried out.
That decision will ultimately cost lives said Alison Walker, who lost her eight-month-old daughter, Hannah, to meningitis B.
In the weeks after the tragedy, a little over a decade ago, Alison and her family turned to the Meningitis Trust for answers.
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The Stroud-based charity is now at the forefront of a campaign to push the Government into a rethink.
Alison said there was still confusion over the symptoms of meningitis, with many unsure of how deadly the virus can be.
"It was a weekend in July and it was very warm," she said.
"I came back from work and Hannah had a temperature. The doctor thought she may have had measles or chickenpox, but she just seemed under the weather.
"The next day she hadn't improved, so I took her into the doctors, who thought it was a urinary infection.
"He checked for a rash and said it wasn't meningitis.
"She went into Battledown Children's Centre for observation and was given Calpol and Nurofen.
"I had a call the next day to say she had crashed and was seriously ill.
"They took her to Cheltenham General and they said then it was meningitis.
"I knew it was dangerous, so we were extremely worried.
"I spent some time with her and was told she wasn't expected to live. She spent five days in Bristol in intensive care before she died."
Alison, her husband David and their three other children Matthew, now 18, Sophie, 15, and Emma, 12, from Cheltenham, are urging people to sign an online petition supporting the vaccine.
"Ten years on we still have people who don't realise how bad it can be or how to spot symptoms," said Alison.
"Any vaccination that would stop this terrible illness in its tracks is hugely preferable to what I went through.
"I was extremely disappointed to hear the Government was not going to support the vaccination.
"The Trust has worked hard to campaign for this, with 20 years of research.
"To find out there is a vaccine but it is too expensive was heartbreaking.
"We will carry on the fight with a petition.
"I have seen enough people go through what my family went through. Money should not come into it. It should be down to a parent's choice."
Sue Davie, from the Meningitis Trust hopes a rethink on the vaccine will be made by the end of the year.
"Although we understand that a population based evaluation would generate more evidence for the vaccine, our concern is the further delay caused by this and the lives being lost.
"The meningitis C vaccine was introduced quickly and effectively because it was needed to save lives and we are asking for the same approach to meningitis B.
"The JCVI has invited us, as the voice for those affected by meningitis, to respond to its interim statement by September 3. We will be doing so, fully and robustly.
"It will then consider this response and the advice of its meningococcal sub-committee at a meeting on October 2, before finalising its advice and publishing a position statement."
To sign the petition, visit www.meningitis-trust.org.