UK Parents Petition Parliament to Address Meningitis Vaccine Shortage


UK parents are panicking over a lack of meningitis B vaccines while Britain’s government plan only supports vaccinating children of ages of 2 to 5 months — and now a public petition that demands the increase of the program to cover children up to the age of 11 has been posted online.

The Telegraph’s Lucy Clarke-Billings writes that private clinics and pharmacies across the UK have been flooded with inquiries from parents who are urgently in need of getting the vaccine for their children to fight against the bacterial infection.

Britain’s largest pharmacy chain, Boots, has run out of the vaccine, and CityDoc, the vaccine’s largest supplier other than the National Health Service, said it would be unable to supply the vaccine to new patients.

After pictures of two-year-old Faye Burdette were released to the press, some clinics were thought to have raised their prices on the vaccine as the demand has become dramatic. Faye’s family and the charity Meningitis Now released the photographs. Faye died after fighting the bacterial infection for 11 days.

The petition to Parliament, asking that the vaccine be offered at no cost through the NHS for children up to 11, has gained over 500,000 signatures. The only other online petition that has passed the 500,000 point is a petition calling for banning Donald Trump from the UK. Any petition that gathers over 100,000 will be considered for Parliamentary debate.

Meningitis B causes 90% of the meningococcal infections in young people. It infects the protective membranes surrounding the brain and the spinal column, the meninges, and results in critical brain damage, blindness, amputations, and death. Currently, in Britain, the vaccine Bexsero is available solely for babies born after July 1, 2015.

Children with the most vulnerability are those under the age of five. Parents of kids who are too old to qualify for the vaccine from the NHS have to purchase it privately.

Supplier GlaxoSmithKline said the global demand for Bexsero last year has caused supply shortages during the first months of this year. The company says it expects to have a larger stock by this summer. Infants who are covered by the NHS will not be affected by the shortage.

Charities, along with families affected by the infection, petitioned the government to begin a vaccination program last year. The officials agreed, and the plan, which included babies born on or after July 1, 2015, began to give Bexsero at two-months-old and a second dose at four-months-old, along with a booster at 12 months. As a result, all UK babies up to nine-months-old should have their full course of immunization, reports Madlen Davies for the Daily Mail.

The three doses cost on average between £95 to £160. The BBC recounts that when the Men B vaccination program began last year, England became the first country to create a plan to protect its infants from the catastrophic disease.

Approximately 30 people a year in the UK die from the meningococcal bacteria, particularly children under the age of five. Ten times that number of people live but are left with long-term health problems, often including amputations. Doctors say that acting quickly when symptoms begin makes a huge difference.

Symptoms include a rash that remains clearly visible when a clear glass is pressed against it. Other symptoms are a stiff neck, sensitivity to bright light, delirium, confusion, severe headaches, fever, vomiting, and seizures, writes Andrew Levy for the Daily Mail.

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