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Assess to Life-Saving Vaccines Essential Says Ritchie
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South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has asked the UK Secretary of State for Health to include the newly licensed meningitis B vaccine on the NHS.

Speaking following Health Questions in Westminster, Ms Ritchie said: “Every year parents across the north of Ireland are confronted with the horrifying impact of meningitis, which is fatal in one in ten cases and causes permanent impairment in one in every three cases. It is critical that everything is done to raise awareness and take early prevention measures, such as introducing vaccines.

Promoting the new Meningitis vacine are South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, second right, with Rita, Chloe, Neal and Fionn Denvir from Newcastle.

Promoting the newly licensed Meningitis vaccine are South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, second right, with Rita, Chloe, Neal and Fionn Denvir from Newcastle.

“I fully endorse Meningitis UK’s Beat it Now campaign to make Bexsero, the first meningitis B vaccine licensed for use in the UK, available to all children through the NHS . While it remains important that parents are given the best possible advice to identify meningitis symptoms, these often remain difficult to notice and may be detected too late. It is therefore vital that parents have access to potentially life-saving vaccines as soon as possible.

“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 and I will continue to make representations on this. It was reassuring today to hear the Secretary of State for Health give his support to this vaccine and I hope to see his continued support. This vaccine could save tens of thousands of lives over the next decade and should be introduced as soon as possible.”

Fionn Denvir contracted meningitis in February 2009 when he was four years old. Thankfully Fionn has made a full recovery. During the meeting the Denvir family and Margaret discussed the urgent need to make the now licensed Meningitis B vaccine available through the NIHS and they also discussed the actions that Margaret has taken to date to support this campaign.

Margaret Richie presented questions to the Health Minister in the House of Commons and an Early Day Motion was submitted to the House of Commons last week. The main sponsor was party colleague Mark Durkin and it was also supported by Strangford MP Jim Shannon.

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The motion read: “That this House notes that a new vaccine against meningitis B has now been licensed for use in the UK; celebrates this medical breakthrough with the potential to save thousands of lives especially among children aged under five; recognises that the vaccine’s optimum impact would be achieved by its inclusion in the Routine Child Immunisation Schedule of the NHS; recalls that the last major vaccine against a form of meningitis, the pneumococcal vaccine, took some five years to get into the schedule; applauds Meningitis UK’s campaign Meningitis B: Beat It Now highlighting the important opportunity to prevent the devastating impact of the most common form of meningitis in the UK; salutes the valiant and generous campaigning efforts of families and individuals who have suffered its traumatic effects including the death of a child, limb loss or brain damage; encourages the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to give timely and positive consideration to the new vaccine’s inclusion in the schedule; and looks forward to Ministers being able to act decisively on their advice this year.”