At substantial expense, the Wells family from Donaghcloney have taken their three children to be vaccinated privately against meningitis B at a Belfast clinic.
Whilst mum Lana welcomed last week’s introduction of the men B vaccine for babies under the NHS, she and her husband Karl point out there is still no NHS vaccine available for older children and took Josh (15), Courtney (17) and Ollie (5), to be vaccinated at Kingsbridge Private Hospital.
Karl and Lana who lost their little son Leo to Men B in 2010 are well known locally for their campaigning efforts and have said they will continue their fight until all children are vaccinated under the NHS.
“We are delighted that every child born in Northern Ireland will now get the Meningitis B vaccine,” said Lana. “It is a long overdue step, considering that this strain causes 80% of cases and kills 1 in 10 children who catch it.
“However, we will be continuing to campaign for the Men B vaccine to be made available to children of all ages, particularly the most vulnerable age groups who are starting primary or secondary schools and mixing with lots of other children.
“Until then, our children will still be at risk from this vicious killer and families like ours will continue to lose sons and daughters.
“It is not an experience that anyone should have to undergo when a vaccine is available.”
It cost the family almost £600 to vaccinate the children, but Karl said, ‘the relief we feel, knowing our children are safe now, is enormous’.
“It was two sets of jabs each for all three of the children,” he continued, “and it was quick, easy and pain-free.
“Any parent would give anything to protect their child, but the simple fact is that not everyone has the means.
“We will continue to campaign for the Government to extend this vaccination to all children of all ages, so no other child has to die and no other family has to grieve.”
Dr Roger Brown of Kingsbridge Private Hospital, who administered the vaccine to the Wells family said: “I have been administering this vaccine for two years now and it is very worthwhile.
“Ideally, it would be available free of charge to every child in Northern Ireland. That is something I, and every other doctor I know, would like to see happening as soon as possible.
“Until then, it is only available privately.”
Welcoming the announcement, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “I am delighted that today the Men B vaccine is being added to the routine childhood vaccination programme in Northern Ireland. “This is an historic step forward in fighting this devastating disease.”