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Parents of tragic meningitis baby urge government to vaccinate all under-5s

By Donna Deeney

Published 06/09/2016

Baby Jamie died of meningitis, less than 24 hours after becoming unwell
Baby Jamie died of meningitis, less than 24 hours after becoming unwell

Parents of a nine-month-old boy who died from meningitis less than 24 hours after he became unwell want a new vaccine to be given to all children under the age of five.

The Bexsero vaccine gives around 88% protection against the meningococcal Group B strain of meningitis and is available to babies born after May 2015. But a child born before this date will not be offered the vaccine. Emma and Darren Cowey, whose son Jamie died after contracting the disease, have said hundreds of children are at risk because the Government is putting costs before lives.

Mrs Cowey said the devastation they felt after losing baby Jamie has changed their lives forever, and they want to spare others from their pain.

"Jamie was born on January 29, 2004 and he was our first child," she said. "We could not have been happier - he was a bright, beautiful boy - but one night when he was nine months I noticed he was feeling a bit off.

"I took him to the doctor, who told me to keep an eye on him, so when he started being sick later in the evening and not wanting to be held I rang the doctor again.

"Because it was Halloween night in Derry and there were hundreds of people in the town the doctor said it would be faster if we took him straight to A&E in Altnagelvin because we live just five minutes away, so we did.

"Despite everything the doctors did, Jamie continued to deteriorate and was rushed to the Royal by ambulance under police escort, but nothing could save our wee son.

"Jamie died at the Royal and we were left to come home to an empty house full of his toys, clothes and stuff. It was horrendous and I don't think we will ever get over it."

As a legacy to Jamie and to prevent other parents losing a child to meningococcal meningitis, Emma and Darren are backing a campaign to get a new vaccine to the under-fives.

Mrs Cowey explained: "We went to the House of Commons with Foyle MP Mark Durkan as part of the campaign to widen the band of children getting the new vaccine.

"Currently it will be offered to a child born after May 2015 - but if your child was born in April 2015 it won't be eligible.

"However, the risks of contacting the condition are the same and it is the same for the rest of the children who are under five from May 2015. This isn't fair, and we feel the Government is putting cost above the lives of all of these children."

To mark the first anniversary of the availability of the vaccine, Mr Durkan called for the vaccine to be given to all children at risk.

He said: "The Government must review the current vaccine regime in order to protect children, not least those who, through fluke of timing, weren't protected."

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