Wales

'Overwhelming' demand for meningitis B vaccine in Wales

A young boy receives a immunization jab at a health centre Image copyright Getty Images

Private clinics in Wales have said they are overwhelmed with calls from patients asking for the meningitis B vaccine.

One south Wales clinic said the practice had seen enquiries increase from a handful to more than 1,500.

It follows the death of Kent toddler Faye Burdett, who died from the infection on Valentine's Day.

The Welsh government said there was "no issue" with those who were entitled to the NHS treatment.

A parliamentary petition to extend the vaccinations to all children up to the age of 11 has attracted more than 800,000 signatures. MPs will debate calls to extend the vaccination to all children.

There is a national shortage of the meningitis B vaccine Bexsero for private patients.

Emma Llewellyn, administrator at the Independent General Practice (IPG), which has branches in Newport, Swansea and Cardiff, said: "We had 60 people on the waiting list about a week ago. Since then, the phones have been ringing constantly. We've had around 1,500 calls asking for the vaccine.

Image copyright Cath Maddaford
Image caption Cardiff mum Cath Maddaford with daughter Iris, five, who survived meningitis B in 2012

"People have been calling from as far away as Ireland and Newcastle."

Nomad travel clinic based in Cardiff - which refers patients to 10 clinics in the UK - has seen its calls increase from one a day to up to 100. Patients who have already started receiving the vaccine privately will be able to complete their course.

Manufacturers GlaxoSmithkline said: "We know the unexpectedly high demand for the vaccine reflects the importance parents have placed on protecting their children from meningitis B.

"We hope to have improving supply from summer 2016 and we are working hard to increase capacity in 2017."

Along with the rest of the UK, Wales introduced the meningitis B vaccination in September 2015 - but only to babies born on or after 1 July.

'Disgusting'

Cardiff mum-of-four Cath Maddaford - whose daughter Iris, five, survived meningitis B in 2012 - said she supported the petition.

"It's disgusting - all children who are at risk should get the vaccination. How many parents have to go through what we did? How many more children have to die, or lose limbs?"

Dr Phil White, member of the Welsh Council of the British Medical Association (BMA), and a GP in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, and Y Felinheli, Gwynedd, said the vaccine costs £200 or more.

"There's no more availability for the vaccine for private use because the UK government have brought up the entire supply from manufacturers.

"There is little point in people approaching their doctor for the vaccination as it is not available."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that the meningitis B vaccination programme should protect babies under five months of age because this is when the risk is greatest."

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