Heartbroken parents prove meningitis doesn't always have obvious symptoms
In a bid to raise awareness about meningitis, heartbroken parents who have lost children to the terrible infection are sharing their stories and calling on the Government to implement change.
A Government petition, started in September by Lee Booth (after one of his young daughters was too old to be vaccinated through the NHS), calling for all children, not just babies, to be given the meningitis B vaccine has now reached over 700,000 signatures — thanks to the bravery of parents like Jenny Burdett and Claire and Mark Timmins.
Last week Jenny Burdett made the decision to share images of her 2-year-old daughter, Faye, in a hospital bed shortly before she died and now Claire Timmins and her husband, Mark, have done the same with a picture of their 7-year-old son, Mason.
Warning: You may find this image upsetting.
The couple have released pictures of their son in the hope that it will not only encourage other parents to look out for the warning signs of the infection but also make them realise that not every child with meningitis develops a rash.
Mason was only 7 years old when the disease killed him without warning in December 2013.
Speaking to The Mirror of their decision to share the images of their son's final moments Claire said, "Hopefully it will shock people into finding out more about meningitis. We want people to know just how quickly it can happen."
She continued, "Originally it was something we were keeping private. Up until now only family have seen it, and the nurses at the hospital who took the pictures for us.
"But there was no hesitation — we were both thinking the same thing without saying it to one another. We also wanted people to realise not everybody develops a rash. Mason didn't have one when he died."
While the photos of children close to death are upsetting they have sparked a conversation and the petition has now broken the record for the most-signed petition on the U.K. Government website. The British Parliament considers debating all petitions that garner over 100,000 signatures.
Currently the MenB vaccine is only offered to babies aged between 2 and 5 months, followed by a second dose at 4 months and a booster at 12 months. Parents can pay for older children to be vaccinated privately.
However, due to high demand for the vaccine in 2015, there is currently a shortage in the private vaccine supply for new patients. GSK, the manufacturers of the vaccine, released the following statement:
"Due to unexpected global demand for Bexsero during 2015, we are experiencing supply constraints during the first half of this year. Although vaccination through the NHS childhood programme has been prioritised and is unaffected, we have unfortunately had to ask private clinics temporarily to not start new courses of vaccination. Children who have already started their course of the vaccine privately should still be able receive their follow up [sic] doses. We know the unexpectedly high demand for the vaccine reflects the importance parents have placed on protecting their children from meningitis B, so we are working hard to increase supply, and expect to have increased stock by summer 2016."