Sunday, 26 September 2021

‘Make meningitis vaccine free to children on NHS’

A COUPLE from Caverhsam are campaigning to make a new meningitis vaccine available to all children on the NHS.

A COUPLE from Caverhsam are campaigning to make a new meningitis vaccine available to all children on the NHS.

Alison and Duncan Coneybeare met Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, on Friday, to discuss Meningitis UK’s Beat it Now campaign.

Their two-old year daughter Eleanor was nearly killed by meningitis and lost her right leg and parts of her fingers to the disease when she was just eight months old. She recently learnt to walk using a prosthetic leg.

Meningitis B is the most common form of meningitis in the UK and is also one of the deadliest, killing six people each week on average. Of the 1,870 people affected each year, under-fives are the most at risk.

One in 10 is killed by the disease and one in three suffers life-changing outcomes such as limb loss or brain damage. Bexsero is the first meningitis B vaccine licensed for use in the UK. Mrs Coneybeare said: “Our family has witnessed first-hand just how devastating meningitis can be.

“We cannot overstate the human cost of this terrible disease and would not want anyone to go through the same experience.

“It’s just a shame the vaccine was not available two years ago.

“We were lucky our Eleanor survived but she will continue to need medical care for the rest of her life. This represents a huge expense to the NHS that might have been avoided through a national vaccination programme.

“We were very relieved to hear from Rob Wilson that he is treating the campaign to give all children the new meningitis B vaccine so seriously. He heard in person what had happened to Eleanor and how things might have been so different if she had been able to receive such a vaccine.

“Vaccination is the only way to move forward in fighting this terrible disease. It is critically important because the signs of meningitis are just so difficult to spot.

“In Eleanor’s case, she did not get the rash that people associate with meningitis until she had already been in intensive care for five hours.”

The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation, an independent expert advisory committee of the Department of Health, is due to consider the vaccine this summer.

Mr Wilson said: “The campaign to get the lifesaving meningitis B vaccine made available to all children in the UK is one I have a great deal of sympathy with. The vaccine could save thousands of lives, especially among children under five, who are most at risk. I was touched meeting Alison, Duncan and, of course, Eleanor to discuss this further and thank them for their bravery in coming forward to raise awareness of this terrible disease.”

Mrs Coneybeare was staying with her parents in Cheshire when her daughter, who had already been diagnosed with a viral infection, took a turn for the worse.

Speaking to the Standard in December, she said: “I had just spoken to my husband on the phone to say Eleanor was not too bad when my mum came in.

“Eleanor was floppy and her breathing had really started to change. She was staring into the distance.”

Mrs Coneybeare was told by hospital staff that her daughter was “very poorly” and she should call her husband straight away in case of the worst happening.

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