Meningitis vaccine decision ‘condemns families’

Baby Ethan Firman

Baby Ethan Firman

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A retired nurse who lost her toddler grandson to meningitis has criticised the Government’s decision to restrict access to a new vaccine.

Jackie Shea, of Garswood, said the decision condemned countless families to suffer the effects of the disease.

Her grandson Ethan, of Orrell, died in 2008 after contracting the illness aged 18 months.

Since the tragedy, Mrs Shea has campaigned and raised funds for meningitis charities, with the family raising around £20,000.

But she says the recent petition - which attracted more than 815,000 signatures online - calling for the meningitis B vaccine to be given to children of all ages, has brought back painful memories.

“The question I keep asking myself is ‘how many more people have to die and how many more families have to suffer like we have?’” said Mrs Shea.

“The Government says giving the vaccine to all children isn’t cost effective but if saving those lives isn’t cost effective, what is?”

The petition - which calls for all children to be vaccinated or at least those up to age 11 - is the most signed online petition in parliamentary history.

It gathered momentum after the parents of Faye Burdett, from Maidstone, shared pictures of her dying from meningitis B on social media. Two-year-old Faye died on Valentine’s Day after fighting the infection for 11 days.

The Government has rejected call for the Bexsero jab to be made widely-available, not just to newborn babies.

However, Mrs Shea, whose daughter Clare has had two daughters since little Ethan’s death, believes the Government can be convinced to reverse its position.

She added: “Not long ago we were told the vaccine wasn’t cost-effective, now it is for just newborn babies.

“I think that with more campaigning they will eventually see that they should be offering this new vaccine to all children.

“If you look at the number of deaths from meningitis every year, that is too high, but you also have to factor in the survivors.

“There are children who get meningitis and survive but who are then left with other conditions because of it.

“Clare always says that even if Ethan had survived then he would have been left severely damaged by the disease.

“This is what the Government isn’t considering and it’s not right.”

Ethan died in April 2008 little more than 24 hours of first displaying any kind of symptoms.

More than 815,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the jab Bexsero to be given to all children, not just newborn babies. But in a response to the petition, they said its priority was to vaccinate those children considered most at risk.