Meningitis jab 'a life-saver'
A mother whose twin boys were rushed to hospital with meningitis is backing a campaign to bring in a jab to protect against the disease.
A new vaccine which was recently licensed in Europe could be included in the national children's vaccination programme by the end of the year.
Sue Ashwin, from Manton, believes it could help save lives.
Her sons, Johnny and Alex, were two when they developed meningitis within 24 hours of each other.
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Both were seriously ill in hospital for a week and there were times when Sue and her husband, Andrew, were warned they could suffer long-term damage.
Mrs Ashwin, vice-principal of Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College, Leicester, said: "Johnny was very poorly on a Thursday night with a high temperature and projectile vomiting.
"The GP said it wasn't meningitis but on Saturday morning I lifted his vest and you could see the red, septicaemia rash all over his tummy.
"We rushed him to the doctor, who pumped him full of antibiotics to 'buy time' for us to get to the hospital.
"Johnny was put in isolation and was almost in a coma.
"We almost thought we might lose him that day. Doctors confirmed he had the septicaemia MenB strain of meningitis and said they could not tell what long-term damage there might be to his health and limbs."
Within a few hours of Johnny being admitted to hospital in Yeovil, Somerset – where the family lived at the time – his twin brother Alex was taken in by ambulance after becoming ill.
He was diagnosed with viral meningitis, a different strain of the disease.
Mrs Ashwin said: "The two cases were unrelated and the chance of it happening was very remote.
"But both were in hospital for a week.
"Thankfully, neither has had any long-lasting side effects.
"It was the speed at which the meningitis developed and the boys became poorly which was frightening.
"The more that becomes available to protect against meningitis the better."
Alex, now 18 and a student at the University of Worcester, is hoping to raise at least £1,500 for the Meningitis Research Fund by taking part in this year's London Marathon.
Johnny is spending a gap year in Australia.
Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Health Protection Agency East Midlands, said: "This is encouraging news in the battle against Meningitis B, which is currently the main cause of meningococcal disease for which there is no available vaccine.
"Babies, toddlers and teenagers are most at risk from this disease."
Dr Monk said the Department of Health's independent group of vaccination experts, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was looking at the use of the new vaccine.
He said: "We must also be aware this vaccine is unlikely to provide a complete solution to MenB, so research must continue and parents should remain vigilant for the symptoms of the disease."