Belfast Telegraph

Medical marvel is a lifesaver

Editor's Viewpoint

In the world of medicine there are always plus and minus factors. Today we publish details of long delays in the waiting lists for hospital appointments which are hard to justify and which cause so much misery for so many patients.

One family doctor pointed out tellingly that "GPs get slaughtered when their patients have to wait longer than 24 hours to be seen, yet patients are waiting longer than a year for a hospital appointment".

Nevertheless, it is also important to stress the positive developments from the medical world, and this includes the very welcome news that the new meningitis B vaccine programme is being introduced to Northern Ireland.

This was announced by the Health Minister Jim Wells, following the news from London that the Government had finally reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical company which has developed the vaccine. As a result, the lives of many children will be saved.

Mr Wells has also announced that the vaccine will be given to around 20,000 children here during the first year, at a cost of £600,000, and that this will increase to £1.5million in the second year.

While costs in the NHS are important, it is impossible to put a price humanly on the introduction of such a vaccine which will protect such a large number of our children, though the Health Minister also issued a caution that some 12% would remain at risk after receiving the vaccine.

Meningitis can develop in a swift and deadly manner, and today we also carry reports from families who have suffered the loss of as child, or whose children have received a distressing and life-changing setback because of the illness.

It is therefore most heartening to learn that such advances have been made to combat Meningitis B, and praise is due to Jim Wells for moving so swiftly to implement the scheme and to his officials for their foresight in helping to make such swift action possible.

So often there are so many criticisms of the NHS, and in many cases rightly so.

However, there is also a danger that people may take for granted the great achievements in healthcare.

Therefore it is particularly important to welcome the introduction of this new vaccine, and to pay tribute to everyone who has made this breakthrough possible.

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