Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, has welcomed the announcement by the Health Minister that the Meningitis B and W vaccines will be made available in Northern Ireland from September.
Commenting the Upper Bann MLA, who has campaigned for years on behalf of her constituents on this issue, said:
“I pay massive tribute to all those parents and campaigners who have fought so hard and for so long to see this day finally come.
“While it has taken us many years to achieve this announcement we can be sure in the knowledge that lives will be saved by these vaccination programmes.
“As a political representative and a friend I have been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder over recent years with Northern Ireland’s ‘meningitis ambassador’ Lana Wells and her family for who I know this is a momentous day.
“The discovery of the Meningitis B vaccine Bexsero was a major life-saving breakthrough for those campaigning to save lives, rebuild futures and fund research into Meningitis. It is deeply unfortunate that delays in administration and then later with confirming costs with drugs companies may well have cost lives.
“We owe it to new-born babies that they benefit from the break-throughs like this in modern science. Meningitis is a disease that even its mention strikes fear at the heart of families.
“The wheels of Government often grind far too slowly and in this case we can be thankful that a positive result has been achieved. I hope that lessons, including the recognition that delays can cost lives, have been learnt throughout this process by the Health Minister and his Department.
“Equally we have seen a worrying and rapid increase in Meningitis W cases which were caused by a highly aggressive strain of the disease. Without the vaccine this was likely to increase in future years. The new vaccination programme for teenagers will now have a substantial impact on the disease and protect the public’s future health.
“To delay the rollout of the vaccine was simply not an option and I am glad that we now have confirmation that Northern Ireland will not be left behind when compared with other regions of the United Kingdom.”