Grieving parents of a six-year-old boy, who died on 24 October from meningitis B, have called on the UK government to take measures to save children from the fatal disease.
Georgie and Bryan Hall from Halesworth, Suffolk, have also reportedly shared the last picture of their child lying on a hospital bed, urging other families to vaccinate their children against the deadly disease. Oliver Hall died within 24 hours of falling ill with the bacterial infection, which is most common in babies, children, teenagers and young adults.
Currently, the NHS vaccination programme in Scotland and England is only available for newborn babies and not for older children.
By sharing Oliver's picture, the Hall family hopes that it will help the government realise the need of extending meningitis B vaccine to all children. Oliver's family has also set up a fund-raising page, which is supporting Meningitis Now – a charity formed in the UK in 1986 to fight meningitis.
"More than £4,000 ($5,334) has been raised so far - and we are really grateful to everyone for their donations and support. To see that total going up makes it feel that Oliver's life was not in vain," Georgie Hall, mother of Oliver, said.
The call from Oliver's parents mounts further pressure on the government to get all children protected against the disease and reiterates a petition signed in 2016 following the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, which attracted more than 820,000 signatures. The UK government in 2016 had said that making the injection available to all children was "not cost effective".
Georgie and her husband Bryan believe that widening the vaccination programme will save young lives. They expressed their desire to meet Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to raise their concerns.
"The government are saying it is not cost effective to vaccinate more children against this disease. Meningitis Now, the charity that we are working with, are arguing that point. Our main goal is to help Meningitis Now to get this vaccination rolled out to more children," Georgie said.
Meanwhile, in another incident, a Nursery in Northfleet has issued a warning to parents after confirming two cases of meningitis. Little Angels Day said that it has spoken to a hospital, which said that the deadly infection is currently "rife" in the area.
The school added that it will function normally but will not allow children with any signs of illness.
What is meningitis B?
An infection of the meninges, the lining around the brain and spinal cord, is called meningitis. The most common bacteria that causes the disease is Neisseria meningitidis or the meningococcus.
It is generally harmless but proves fatal if it gets into the blood or spinal fluid. There are different types of this bacteria and the most common is type B – which is often referred to as "meningitis B", or MenB that generally affects children under the age of one.
The other type of meningitis is viral meningitis, which is usually mild and often clears on its own. Fungal meningitis is relatively uncommon and causes chronic meningitis. This type is not contagious.
Chronic meningitis occurs when slow-growing organisms (such as fungi and Mycobacterium tuberculosis) invade the membranes and fluid that surround the brain.
Symptoms of meningitis
Sudden high fever, constant crying, vomiting, inactivity or sluggishness are the common symptoms associated with meningitis in children. It is advisable to see a doctor as soon as these symptoms appear because it can lead to death without quick antibiotic treatment.