DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney says the roll-out of two new Meningitis immunisation programmes aimed at infants, teenagers and university freshers will save lives in Londonderry and across the North West.
He made the comments after his party colleague, the Health Minister Simon Hamilton ,announced the move last week.
“It’s very welcome that these vaccines will be made available from September in spite of the difficult financial circumstances at the moment,” he said.
“It’s good news and will provide peace of mind for many parents and families and represents a value for money investment,” he added.
Meningococcal B and Meningococcal ACWY vaccination programmes were recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the UK expert group that advises Ministers.
From September the world’s first licensed Meningococcal B vaccine will be offered to infants in three doses, at 2 months, 4 months and 12 months.
Announcing the programme, the Minister said: “Parents are acutely aware that Meningitis B is a very serious and in some cases fatal disease which strikes fast and without warning.
“I am delighted to announce the introduction the Men B programme in Northern Ireland which will provide a high level of protection against the disease.
“I am confident that families will welcome this life-saving programme and that the uptake in Northern Ireland will be high.”
The Minister also announced the introduction of a new meningitis immunisation programme for teenagers aged 14 to 18 and for young people starting university.
Meningococcal W is a particularly virulent strain of the disease, which is rare in the UK but has seen an increase in cases in recent years. In response to the rise in cases, the JCVI has recommended an immunisation programme with a vaccine that provides protection against four strains of meningococcal disease: A, C, W and Y.
The Men ACWY vaccine will also be offered to young people aged 18 to 25 who are starting university. The current Men C programme for freshers will now offer the Men ACWY vaccine, providing protection against these four strains.
Concluding the Minister said: “Vaccination is true primary prevention. It is important not only to provide protection for those who are most at risk but also to interrupt the carriage of the disease in the community. I would urge all those who are eligible for the Men ACWY programme to get themselves immunised. By doing so they will be protecting others as well as themselves.”