Yell couple Claire and Mark Lawson have recalled the “nightmare” of when their daughter Brodie developed meningitis as a toddler.
They have retold their story to encourage the community to take up new free meningitis vaccines for babies, teenagers and first time university students during Meningitis Awareness Week, which is being run by the international charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) from 14th to 20th September.
This follows the introduction at the beginning of this month of the world’s first vaccine against meningococcal B (MenB) meningitis and septicaemia for babies into the UK’s immunisation programme.
Mrs Lawson recalled the “nightmare” of Brodie contracting meningitis when she was two.
She said: “Our daughter Brodie was no more unwell than a child who had a 24-hour bug, but then I noticed she had a bruise on her forehead. I knew immediately what it was.
“Our local GP gave a shot of penicillin and by the time we got in the ambulance she was covered in the rash and slipping in and out of consciousness.
“Brodie was in intensive care and had to learn to walk and talk again but she is so lucky she was not left with permanent damage. The experience completely changed our outlook on life and it took a long time to get over it and many years before I could talk about it without breaking down.
“We know how devastating these diseases can be, so would urge all who are eligible to make sure they get the vaccines.”
This is echoed by NHS Shetland. Consultant in public health medicine Susan Laidlaw said: “I would urge parents to take up the offer of MenB vaccine for their babies, to prevent a very serious and potentially life threatening illness. And I can reassure parents that it is safe to have it at the same time as the other childhood vaccines.”
Mr and Mrs Lawson, who are members of MRF, also urge school children and students to take up the meningococcal ACWY (Men ACWY) vaccination. This programme, for 14 to18 -year-old schoolchildren and 19 to 25-year-olds starting university, was prompted by a rise of a deadly new strain of meningococcal W meningitis and septicaemia, identified by MRF’s Meningococcus Genome Library project.
The new vaccines join others against meningococcal C, Hib and pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia in the UK immunisation programme.
The MRF’s Scotland manager Mary Millar said: “We are delighted with the introduction of these new vaccines which we hope will further reduce the number of cases in the UK. However, there are still some forms of the disease which are not covered by these vaccines so it is vital that people are still aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.”
Since the MenC vaccine was introduced in 1999, confirmed cases have dropped. But it remains a deadly disease that can strike anyone of any age without warning, killing one in 10, and leaving a third of survivors with life altering after-effects as severe as deafness, brain damage and loss of limbs. Babies, children under five and young adults are most at risk.