Bath student: Make meningitis vaccine available to spare parents my tragedy
A young mum who lost her baby son to meningitis is backing a campaign to make a new vaccine available to all children to save other parents the heartache she suffered.
Amy Hayes, a student at the University of Bath, is raising awareness of the deadly disease after her seven-month-old son Oscar died last year.
The 18-year-old wants bexsero, the first vaccine for meningitis B licensed for use in the UK, to be given to all children, especially those under the age of five who are more at risk.
In February last year Oscar woke up and sneezed loudly, leading Amy, orginally from County Durham, to believe he was developing a cold.
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She dropped him off at nursery as normal, but received a call a few hours later saying he wasn’t himself and asking her to collect him.
Amy took Oscar to the children’s hospital in Newcastle, where doctors said he had a 48-hour bug, and he was sent home to rest.
However Amy woke in the middle of the night to find Oscar white as a sheet and making a strange groaning noise.
Worried, she called an ambulance and he was rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed with meningitis.
He was given antibiotics, but the disease spread to his brain, causing swelling, and he died.
Amy said: “It’s a horrific disease. I went from having a healthy baby boy, who just got a cold, to walking out of the hospital alone and ruined in the space of 24 hours. I had no idea meningitis could take hold so quickly.
“It can be fatal within four hours – it doesn’t even give people time to act, particularly if the symptoms aren’t obvious and they are similar to many other illnesses.”
Amy is uniting with other families whose lives have been affected by the condition to support Meningitis UK’s new Meningitis B: Beat It Now campaign.
They are calling for the Government to introduce bexsero into the routine childhood immunisation schedule, so that children receive it through the NHS.
Amy said: “This vaccine is so important. Cost shouldn’t be a consideration in introducing the vaccine into the childhood immunisation programme because you can’t value a child’s life against giving a vaccine.
“Life should be more expensive than a vaccine.”
Meningitis B, the most common form of the disease in the UK, affects around 1,870 people each year, and every week six people die. Studies show that bexsero will protect against 73 per cent of Meningitis B strains in the UK.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccination, will now decide whether it should be in the schedule and what age groups should receive it.
It is due to consider the vaccine in the summer, and will look at factors such as price, cost effectiveness and compatibility with other vaccines in the schedule.
Meningitis UK Founder, Steve Dayman, who lost his 14-month-old son Spencer to meningitis and septicaemia in 1982, said: “This ground-breaking vaccine is the most important development since I began my fight against meningitis 30 years ago. The Government must introduce the Meningitis B vaccine into the immunisation schedule as soon as possible.”
To support the campaign or for more information, visit www.meningitisuk.org/beatitnow.