We took Mouse to have her Meningitis B vaccine this weekend. Up until this point, I wasn’t wholly sure how I felt about it. A lot of money for something that might not be necessary, was my summarised thought.
Now that she’s had it though, I know exactly how I feel. As a parent, a mother, I can’t comprehend why the cut-off age for the NHS funded vaccine is 12 months, as part the childhood immunisation programme. In the UK, meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia remain the leading infectious cause of death for children under five. I have two children under five – Moo was fortunate enough to be born inside the bracket enabling her to be immunised for free, but Mouse was not.
In February, the country was rocked by the heartbreaking story of Faye Burdett, who died on Valentine’s Day after an 11 day battle with meningitis B. I cried, signed a petition campaigning for a greater provision of the vaccine, then cried some more. In 2016, this disease should not be taking our children.
We paid £220 for the two vaccinations required to make up the full dose. We’re lucky – while we’re definitely not financially flush at the moment, we could stretch to this. But many families won’t be able to. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises UK health departments, responded to the public calls and campaigns for a wider vaccination programme. They considered vaccinating older age groups (one to four-year-olds) but concluded it would not be cost-effective. The jab costs £75 to the NHS.
I know that our NHS is a finite resource. I know that if they open up the programme to extend to the under five bracket, they’ll be pressured to expand other vaccinations and services. I know that sadly someone, somewhere, will mark the cut off point and they might lose their baby. For no matter how old a child is, they’re forever their parents’ baby.