Surge in vaccine demand after powerful meningitis images shared

A Generic Photo of a young boy being vaccinated for meningitis B. See PA Feature FAMILY Family Colum

A Generic Photo of a young boy being vaccinated for meningitis B. See PA Feature FAMILY Family Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FAMILY Family Column. - Credit: PA

Stocks of the Meningitis B vaccine have reached capacity in Norfolk after two sets of parents, including England rugby hero Matt Dawson, shared pictures of their own children in hospital battling with the disease.

They made such an impact across the county that private clinics have set up waiting lists and are even turning away parents who are prepared to pay for their children to receive the vaccine.

And around 500,000 people have also signed an online petition calling for all children, and not just babies, to receive the meningitis B vaccine Bexsero - but worldwide stocks are currently low.

Its manufacturer, the global pharmaceutical GlaxoSmithKline, says that while these supplies for the national immunisation programme are prioritised, those outside the criteria will need to wait until summer when stocks become available again to private clinics.

Children who have already started their course of the vaccine privately should still be able receive their follow up doses.


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A spokesman said: '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.'

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He added that children who have already started their course of the vaccine privately should still be able receive their follow up doses and the company hopes to improve its supply by the summer of 2016.

Among the clinics to be affected is the Norwich Practices Health Centre in Rouen Road, Norwich, where there has been a noticeable surge in demand since the death two-year-old Faye Burdett, from Kent on Valentine's Day became public.

It will continue to give the vaccine to babies as part of the national immunisation programme, but has temporarily stopped offering it privately.

Barry Sharpe, the health centre's service manager, said: 'There has been a noticeable demand since the picture of the little girl appeared on social media.

'It's really difficult to know how to advise parents at this stage until we know more about what's happening at the manufactures ourselves.'

He added: 'We're being told that babies who fall into the vaccination programme will be covered, and so should those who have had follow up doses.

'More stocks should be available on the shelves by June - and the practice here will start offering the vaccine again privately when it can.'

The St James Medical Practice in King's Lynn also said it had also received a number of enquiries about the vaccine's availability.

The Meningitis B vaccine has been available to babies across the country since September last year.

But it is only available to those born on or after 1 July 2015 as part of the routine immunisation schedule. Those born on or after 1 May 2015 are being offered the vaccine as part of a one-off catch up campaign.

It means parents who have older children, but want them to also be vaccinated, must pay privately. Prices vary but it can cost up to £480.

But with the backing of hundreds of thousands of people across the country, that could be set to change.

- Are you a parent trying to access the vaccine for your child? Email louise.hepburn@archant.co.uk

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