Calls For New Meningitis Jab

The parents of a toddler from the West Midlands who was left severely disabled after contracting Meningitis B are imploring NHS vaccination bosses to introduce a new jab to protect other children against the potentially fatal disease.

Julie Tuckley, 37, said that no child should have to suffer the pain and anguish her 19-month-old son Tommy Brown did.

In March last year, Tommy was struck down with the potentially fatal infection when he was just five months old.

His parents Ms Tuckley and father Dean Brown, 28, took Tommy to his doctor because his temperature jumped to 37.3C.

He was diagnosed with a throat infection but the next morning a purple rash had spread across his body and he was rushed to hospital, where he technically died but was revived by medics.

Doctors said that the youngster, from Walsall, only had a 5% chance of survival.

But after a life-saving operation, during which he had both of his legs, his right hand and left-hand fingers amputated, the youngster has come out of the other side.

Ms Tuckley and Mr Brown said that the ''lifesaving'' vaccine, which was approved for use by European health chiefs in January, should become routinely available on the NHS.

The couple, who have teamed up with charities Meningitis UK and Meningitis Trust, are calling on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to give the green light to the Bexsero vaccine.

Mr Brown said: ''We strongly support the campaign as we don't want anyone else to go through what we have - it still impacts on us now and will for life.

''It's a horrendous disease that kills or leaves people like our Tommy with awful after-effects.

''It's simple - there should be no question - the Government needs to act and put this great vaccine on the NHS immediately. It will save so many lives and stop others from suffering like Tommy, so everyone should rally behind Beat it Now.''

Ms Tuckley added: ''It can't help Tommy but it could help other kids.

''We tell him he is our brave small soldier returning from war - injuries and all. It makes me cry to see him alert and looking about - then looking at where his hands and legs used to be, as if he is wondering where they are.

''It was so painful to see him suffer and go through the operations, but he is remarkable and is superb at adapting - we're lucky to still have our beautiful boy.''

The JCVI will meet next month to discuss the cost-effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.

The drug is likely to be expensive so there is ''no guarantee that the JCVI will rubber-stamp a positive decision'', NHS officials say.

After deliberating the pros and cons for the vaccine, the experts could make one of three decisions; to include the jab in the routine NHS vaccination schedule, to provide the vaccine on the NHS to high risk groups or for the vaccine to only be available to parents who wish to pay for it.

The charities, which have launched a petition calling for the vaccine to be part of the childhood immunisation programme, said thousands of lives could be saved if all children had access to the vaccine.

Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman, who lost his son to the disease three decades ago, said: ''This ground-breaking vaccine is the most significant development in the fight against the disease since I lost Spencer to meningitis 30 years ago.

''It's the most significant vaccine produced since the one for polio.

''The Government must introduce Bexsero into the childhood immunisation schedule as soon as possible - this is the only way it will save thousands of lives and spare families so much suffering.

''Any delay means lives will be lost or left with life-changing after-effects.

''The last major meningitis vaccine took five years to be included - we simply cannot wait that long.

''Cost shouldn't be a barrier for this vaccine either - you cannot put a price on life.

''Please support Beat it Now - together we can end the heartache caused by Meningitis B.''

Meningitis B, which is most common in children under five years old, and in particular in babies under the age of one,  is a highly aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis. It infects the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can cause severe brain damage, septicaemia or even death.

Meningitis UK estimates that there are 1,870 cases of meningitis B each year in the UK.

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