Meningitis campaign pushes for national childhood vaccination

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MILLIONS of pounds are spent every year on the care of meningitis victims who survive with disabilities.

The deadly disease can be a killer and leaves one in four sufferers who survive with disabilities but campaigners say it is a hidden cost.

Today the Meningitis Research Foundation is renewing its Counting the Cost campaign and urging MPs nationwide to push for a Men B vaccine to be introduced into the childhood vaccination programme alongside the likes of whooping cough and HIB Meningitis.

The battle of survivors coping emotionally and financially illustrates the Foundation’s campaign highlighted today at the start of Meningitis Awareness Week.

Christopher Head, chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “Counting the Cost of Meningitis shows how those survive can struggle to come to terms with the impact of these horrific diseases which change lives forever. “Our campaign makes practical recommendations to Government to reduce the burden of disease through vaccination in the UK. Vaccination provides peace of mind for every parent across the country and we have an online petition for people to sign to join the fight against meningitis and septicaemia.”

The campaign is calling for the government to change its criteria for assessing the value of vaccination for meningitis and septicaemia to include full medical, social and educational costs which can run into millions of pounds for just one sufferer. Mr Head said: “About a quarter of people who get meningitis, and there are lots of different types, do survive with a lifelong disability – that’s one in four. Each of these very severe cases can cost over £3m over a lifetime, you don’t need many to make a compelling case and we reckon there’s 60 to 70 cases in a year.”

On top of those with severe disabilities, there are others where the cost is less but equally important to take into account, he says.

Mr Head said: “If you vaccinate a cohort of newborns, and there are about 700,000 a year, you can make difference. There is a cost of vaccination of tens of millions but the cost of not vaccinating is also tens of millions what we are trying to do is demonstrate if you take the life long view vaccination is cost effective. We are planning on presenting a petition to Downing Street at the end of the year and we have also submitted evidence to the specialist committees drawing from the campaign in order to reinforce the argument that the lifelong cost is hard. We have thousands of signatures already and we want as many as possible. We have a number of MPs who have signed and we are planning a lobby day at the House of Commons in November.”

For more information or to sign the petition visit www.meningitis.org/sign

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