Meningitis B Debate - 29-04-16
For almost three hours this Monday Parliament was engaged directly at the request of 823,345 petitioners from every constituency across the nation, following the tragic death of Maidstone's little Faye Burdett. Unsurprisingly Maidstone & The Weald had the highest number of signatories at 3717.
The Petitions Select Committee debate on Meningitis B produced an impassioned, enlightened and informed series of speeches and interventions, from members of all political leanings. It was witnessed by bereaved parents, national charities and other important campaigners. Their presence in the Westminster Hall added poignant public engagement to our Parliamentary proceedings and showed our democracy at its best.
The petition sought to extend the existing vaccination programme beyond babies of 12 months old but the debate took the issue to a broader plane; seeking to raise public awareness, developing a wider prevention strategy and seeking cost reductions from the vaccine manufacturer were all mentioned.
Challenging the formula used for assessing cost effectiveness was another point that I and other colleagues advocated; emphasising the importance and value of public preference in healthcare choices, public peace of mind, and the lifetime cost of treatment for survivors of the disease.
Another issue I raised personally was regarding the vaccination of teenagers; in addition to directly protecting them, adolescents aged 16 to 21 are also the main carriers of the meningococcal bacteria.
The Health Minister confirmed in the debate that the 'adolescent carrier' study would be reporting in February 2017. She also announced the launch of a national awareness campaign focussed upon early symptom recognition and more details will follow.
Mr and Mrs Burdett were sitting behind me throughout the debate. Their campaign continues but they have already achieved enormous strides against Meningitis B and I hope that will help them in their sadness and loss.
Helen's weekly column is published every Friday in the Kent Messenger. The content shown here may differ slightly from the press version.