Durkan campaigns to extend meningitis vaccine
Ahead of attending today’s parliamentary debate triggered by the petition, Mr Durkan has met leading charities Meningitis Now and Meningitis Research Foundation at Westminster – including 2-year-old Harmonie-Rose who contracted Men B in 2014 resulting in quadruple amputation.
Mr Durkan helped to lead the parliamentary push for the successful introduction of the Men B vaccine for babies aged up to 1 (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 2 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 1. Faye died at the age of 2 on the 14 February 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 5’s – 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 engage, participate and 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 and make the decision to extend the Men B vaccine as soon as possible.”