THE TRAGIC death of two-year-old Faye Burdett has led to a renewed call by a consultant in infectious diseases for the government to vaccinate all young people against the deadly B strain of meningitis – not just babies.
Dr Ravi Gowda, a hospital consultant and director of Coventry-based healthcare organisation Travel Klinix, says action needed to be taken now.
In the first national and publicly-funded programme in the world, the meningitis B jab is being offered on the NHS for infants aged two months, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. The programme also includes a temporary catch-up programme for babies who were due their three-and four-month vaccinations.
Faye’s parents believe their daughter, who died on Valentine’s Day of menigitis B, could have been saved had she been given the new vaccine. Some 300,000 have signed a petition following the Kent toddler’s death calling for all children to be given the the vaccine.
Dr Gowda told The Observer: “It’s a devastating disease, and we are losing young lives to something that is completely preventable.
“I think the vaccination should be given to everyone from babies to students – they are all at risk.
“The jab will protect against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which can cause meningitis and blood poisoning. While it can affect people of any age, it is most common in babies and children under five – so why limit it to babies?
“I genuinely think that all young people who attend school or university should be vaccinated. My children were not eligible for B because of their age but I vaccinated them anyway.”
He added some forms of the disease were not covered by the vaccines so it was vital people were still aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. These develop rapidly in older children and adults and usually include a headache, neck stiffness, nausea and high fever, with or without the tell-tale rash which doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it.
In babies, other signs may include refusing to eat, agitation, drowsiness, being floppy or unresponsive, as well as grunting or breathing rapidly or making unusually high-pitched cries or groans.