Ben Howlett, the Member of Parliament for Bath and member of the Petitions Select Committee, recently led the debate on an e-petition relating to the Meningitis B vaccine.
The petition received over 820,000 signatures and formed the basis of a joint inquiry between the Petitions Select Committee and Health Select Committee.
The Petitions Committee heard evidence from a range of parents, charities and experts in the field. During the 3 weeks of evidence sessions it was clear that there was a strong case for an extension of a vaccination programme to the under-5s in a one off programme.
During the debate, Ben said: “Meningitis B is an evil disease that kills or maims hundreds of children in the UK every year. We need to eradicate it as soon as possible.
“It is the opinion of many research organisations that…we should prioritise protecting the most vulnerable from contracting the disease through a one-off catch-up programme for children under the age of five. They are the age group at the next highest risk of meningitis B infection.
“That one-off campaign would put many minds at ease and help the future eradication of the disease. The current vaccine only has a two-year shelf life, so it makes sense for the UK to use the vaccines while it can, to catch all those under the age of five.
“The evidence that we heard showed that the number of cases falls substantially after the age of five. While it is always uncomfortable to set a cut-off age, that would be a sensible one to introduce in the here and now.”
Ben also go the chance to raise Harmonie Rose, a young girl from Bath who sadly contracted Meninigits B and unfortunately lost all four limbs because of it.
Ben said: “Harmonie-Rose is a lovely, bubbly young child, living her life to the absolute full. She is beginning to adapt to her prosthetics; one day, she will have the freedom to move around that we all enjoy.”
Ben had the privilege of seeing Harmonie-Rose and her mum Freya in Parliament with Meningitis Now in Parliament last week.
As a result of the debate, Jane Ellison, Minister for Public Health, announced: “I have asked Public Health England to develop a national awareness campaign that will focus on the dangerous infections that parents worry about the most, including meningitis, septicaemia and sepsis.
“The campaign will focus on the symptoms that parents need to look out for. To get that right, we will work with the appropriate experts and charities, and of course more details will be available in due course.”