NI21 MLA for South Down John McCallister, centre, pictured with pupils and staff from Kilkeel Nursery School taking part in the Meningitis Research Foundation Teddy Bear Awareness Roadshow. Included are MLA’s Jim Wells and Séan Rogers and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie.
The roadshow came to Kilkeel last Friday, the same day it was announced that a vaccine against deadly meningitis B is set to be introduced on the NHS for young babies.
Mr McCallister said: “The purpose of the roadshow is to highlight the devastation caused by meningitis and organisers want to illustrate the burden of life-threatening meningitis in Northern Ireland and urge parents to be informed and vigilant. “
He explained how 42 brown teddy bears came to Kilkeel to represent the number of people in Northern Ireland who contract meningitis every year. One in ten teddy bears on display were white to represent those that sadly lose their lives to this devastating disease.
Welcoming news of the vaccine, Mr McCallister joined charities and campaigners in saying it would save “thousands of lives” and added “under the plans, babies will be vaccinated from the age of two months, with a one-off catch-up programme for those aged three and four months. “
Health Minister Welcomes Men B Vaccine
Health Minister Edwin Poots has today welcomed and accepted the JCVI recommendations regarding the Men B vaccine.
The Minister said: “The advice from JCVI gives us the opportunity to plan for the managed and orderly introduction of a new Men B vaccine into the current childhood immunization programme, subject to the vaccine being procured at a cost-effective price.
“I have always welcomed the quest for an effective, safe and cost-effective vaccine to protect against meningitis B. I note that negotiations regarding the vaccine price will now be taken forward by the Department of Health in England on behalf of all the UK Health Departments and I look forward to a positive outcome.”
Men B can cause meningitis and/or septicaemia. It is fatal in about one in 10 of such cases. Infants and children aged under five years are most affected. With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment most make a full recovery, but about one in eight cases experience long-term health problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and/or learning difficulties.
Men B is now responsible for the vast majority of cases of invasive meningococcal disease in this country. In the past decade, on average over 1,000 confirmed cases of MenB disease have occurred annually in the UK, although the annual incidence has declined in recent years.
The Minister concluded by saying: “The introduction of a new vaccination programme needs to be carefully planned in order to ensure a sufficient and sustainable supply of vaccine, assuming that it can be obtained at a cost-effective price. The timing of the introduction of a programme will now depend primarily on the progress and outcome of the negotiations between the Department of Health and the vaccine manufacturer.”