Campaign in memory of Londonderry tot bearing fruit

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Londonderry MP Mark Durkan has called for the immediate introduction of a Meningitis vaccine for all newborns in Northern Ireland whilst praising indefatigable Tullyally campaigners, Emma and Darren Cowey, who have been fighting for action for a over a decade in memory of their late son Jamie.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has welcomed an announcment that all newborn babies in England and Scotland are to be offered the new Men B vaccine Bexsero from September 1 and has called for Northern Ireland to urgently follow suit.

Former Health Minister Jim Wells signed off on a vaccine to be included as part of the routine childhood vaccination programme in March.

But Mr Durkan wants action immediately.

In Britain the new Men B vaccine will be given to babies at two months, four months and 12 months old – and is to become the first national and publicly-funded programme against the deadly infection in the world.

Mr Durkan, who tabled parliamentary motions and campaigned at Westminster with the charity Meningitis Now calling on the government to introduce the new vaccine, has also supported the local campaign by Londonderry parents Emma and Darren Cowey who lost their nine-month-old son Jamie to Meningitis B in November 2004.

Since Jamie passed away to the killer disease at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Halloween in 2004, less than 24 hours after the first symptoms developed, the Waterside couple have been tireless campaigners for a vaccine.

He said: “I am delighted that the new Men B vaccine will be introduced in England and Scotland from 1 September – and will begin to save the lives of so many babies straight away.

“Northern Ireland must follow this progress and introduce the new Men B vaccine without delay.

“Bexsero can prevent 82 per cent of cases of Men B and the lifelong damage and loss of life it tragically brings.

“I commend everyone at Meningitis Now for their compelling campaign over many years. Indeed, this great result is down to the brave and generous work of families and those who have endured Meningitis B’s worst.

“My own constituents Darren and Emma Cowey were typical of the character of the campaign that was fought – having lost their young son to Meningitis B and wanting vaccination to spare others from that risk.”

Last year Sue Davie, Chief Executive of Meningitis Now, said: “I find it hard to express how grateful I am for Mark Durkan’s incredible support of our campaign to secure the introduction of the new Men B vaccine.

“Mark’s willingness to always go the extra mile – with the Early Day Motions, encouraging other MPs to get involved (for example helping us to get over 40 MPs along just to a photocall) and introducing the Shadow Chancellor to our campaign has played such a big part and I am so very grateful.”