Me, my three and Meningitis B

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is getting my girls vaccinated against Meningitis B. But it was probably about a year ago now that I really became aware I should do something about it.

I was working a freelance shift on The Stephen Nolan show  on BBC Radio 5LIVE. The story I was working on was about the fact that the Government still hadn’t agreed on a price for licensing the Meningitis B jab for babies.

I was tasked with finding a case study: someone who had experience on this subject from a personal perspective. I spoke to a couple of people but one dad  – who did end up being a guest on the show – really struck a chord with me. He told me how he’d lost his two year old daughter, just 10 days before to Meningitis. He recalled the harrowing story of how the day had started normally with his daughter fit and well. She’d been at nursery and had a bath as normal in the evening. But she’d woken up through the night feeling unwell with a high temperature. They had taken her to A&E a few hours later, when she had become more unwell. A doctor noticed a small rash on her body. That was the beginning of the end for them. Their daughter died that day. The rash was the visual sign that the infection was already in her blood stream and by then, too far advanced. How devastating. He wanted to  share his story and raise awareness.

I was so moved by his story I was straight on the phone to Mr H saying ‘let’s start researching where we can get this injection’. But I still haven’t done it yet.

The recent Government decision not to offer the Meningitis B vaccine to children of all ages is a real blow to all parents, including me, leaving us all unclear about what to do for the best.

The case of two year old Faye Burette who died a few weeks ago was so tragic. Her mum Jenny posted on Facebook some very shocking photos of her dear little girl when she was terribly poorly. Suddenly the story is all everyone is talking about on the news and social media.

It gave a voice to others who also wanted to share their story. The Timmins’ family also shared a photo of the final moments of their little boy’s life, after he was declared brain dead just hours after becoming sick. Rugby player Matt Dawson also spoke about his families recent scare with Meningitis. An online petition suddenly gathered steam and people signed it in their thousands, including me.

To date 815,000 people have signed it, making it the most popular petition in parliamentary history. Because of this photo:


The photo of Faye Burdett illustrated the power one person’s story can have on an issue. Without this image would we have all connected to this story in the same way?

As a journalism student I certainly learnt the power that a ‘case-study’ carries. You can tell a story with as many amazing facts and figures as you like but without a case study to bring it to life your story just isn’t as newsworthy or as interesting. Even better if you have a powerful image to go with a strong case-study – you’re onto a winner – and your story does ‘viral’. We’re a very visual society now. Instagram and Facebook etc show us that an image can speak a thousand words. And sometimes an image doesn’t need any words.

What happened to little Faye is every parents worst fear. Your helpless child so poorly and  no amount of medication can help them. If there was a way of preventing our child getting a serious illness or infection wouldn’t we all do it, whatever the cost?

Well there is with Meningitis B. Sort of. If you have a spare £400+ in your pocket and some patience. Now, as there is now no plan to roll out the vaccine to older children (babies born now and since May 2015 are covered) parents are left with no other choice really but to buy it privately. Or just take the risk. Not really a choice is it.

Apparently cases of Meningitis B are on the decline despite these recent high profile cases. And the cost of vaccinating over five million children is just too expensive. Also they just don’t know how affective it is to vaccinate on such a mass scale because the UK is the first country to offer the vaccine and the potential side affects are also unknown.These  are all factors in the Government’s decision to just immunise babies.

As the story has gathered steam, so have the inquiries about the injection and it’s caused the supply of the vaccine to become completely out of stock in most private clinics.

My GP’s surgery recently told me they can’t offer it to me, even if I payed for it on a private prescription. Rumour has it that a local paediatrician is doing the injections, but I haven’t found them yet. So I need to put myself on a waiting list at either Boots or another local clinic and hope that when the supply of the injection comes back in we can afford to pay for it, for our three precious bundles.

I should have done something sooner though and now I’m at the back of the queue.

Even though I know statistically it’s unlikely to happen, I’m not prepared to take the risk and I don’t want to ever have to take a picture like Faye’s mum had to take and become another case-study.

Signs of Meningitis B every parent should look out for:

Early symptoms can include: Fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet. Someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get a lot worse very quickly. Keep checking them.

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsy, difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Pale, blotchy skin. Spots/rash (See the Glass Test)
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike bright lights
  • Convulsions/seizure


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