A DAD who lost his son to meningitis has welcomed a Government decision to start vaccinating babies against the deadly disease.
Glenn Robinson was just 16 when he died after contracting the meningococcal septicaemia strain of meningitis B.
The European Commission licensed the Bexsero vaccine for use in January last year, but the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) cited cost effectiveness and a drop in cases as reasons not to approve it for use.
Now the decision has been reversed and the Department of Health has confirmed it will introduce the vaccine if an agreement on price can be reached with the manufacturer.
If the plan goes ahead, babies will be immunised from two months old, with a one-off catch-up programme extended to three and four-month-olds.
Ken Robinson, who lost his son 17 years ago, said: “It is absolutely fantastic news. This is what should have happened years ago.
“There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes by the Meningitis Research Foundation with support from myself and many other parents.”
Although 69-year-old Ken, of Newbottle, is delighted at the decision to vaccinate infants, he wants the scheme extended to older children.
“We are going to give the vaccine to babies, but what about the kids aged eight, nine, ten, 11? The ones like my son, who died when he was 16?
“It would be great if there was a vaccine available for them too.”
The Government decision was also welcomed by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, who wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after the JCVI vetoed the use of Bexsero last summer.
More than 130 MPs have added their support to the Beat it Now! campaign led by Meningitis Now, the UK’s largest meningitis charity, to introduce the vaccine.
“I’m absolutely delighted that the Government have now seen sense and agreed to make the new Men B vaccine available,” said Mrs Hodgson.
“As a parent I know you can lie awake at night worrying about your child contracting meningitis, so this vaccine won’t just protect thousands of children from harm and save lives over the coming years, but also provide peace of mind to so many families.”
Bexsero is estimated to be effective in around 88 per cent of cases of meningitis B, a highly aggressive strain of the disease which infects the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and, if left untreated, can cause severe brain damage and septicaemia even in cases where it is not fatal.
One in three survivors will be left with debilitating after-effects such as loss of limbs or brain damage.