Meningitis vaccines for children could save lives

My latest column in the Gazette & Herald and Wiltshire Times
Michelle Donelan Column 25 Feb 16
You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the harrowing pictures of two-year-old Faye Burdett who sadly died last week after contracting meningitis B. The photographs have been widely shared on social media and the petition calling for vaccination against the disease to be extended from newborns to all children up to the age of 11 has become the largest Government e-petition ever. It is easy to see why there is such support for the campaign. Meningitis B is a ferocious disease that kills one in ten that it affects and, of those who survive, a quarter suffer permanent disability.

It would cost £300 million to vaccinate all under 11’s, almost half the total budget spent on healthcare in the whole of Wiltshire, and the case should be heard in Parliament. I hope that the Government can come to a deal with the drug companies to vaccinate more of our children; particularly, as suggested by the Meningitis Now charity, the under-fives who are most vulnerable.

In a busy recess last week, I visited local companies as diverse as a TV channel in Chippenham, who broadcast educational programs to refugee camps in the Middle East; satellite manufacturers and chocolate makers in Corsham and members of the business community in Bradford on Avon. Each, a valued local business and a great example of how diverse Wiltshire’s local economy is. I also held two busy surgeries, had a meeting with local doctors, a local housing association, spent time with two local charities and took up an invite to answer questions at an Amnesty International meeting in Bradford on Avon. I visited a preschool nursery and did a number of resident house visits, met with a church social responsibility committee and watched my first ever Chippenham Rugby Club match.

Returning to Westminster, on Wednesday I had another opportunity to question David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions. I raised the plight of the millions of Syrians who are suffering in refugee camps having fled from Assad and Da’esh persecution and bombs. Wiltshire has welcomed a number of Syrian’s who are integrating well in our communities. I asked the Prime Minister to investigate whether Council’s like Wiltshire who are willing to do more to help these desperate people are assisted in doing so by the Government.

Understandably, many people have asked my views on the EU Referendum. This is a monumental decision and I have decided to take a few days to meet with the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Immigration Minister one on one to ask specific questions and get clear answers. What is important is that I, as with all MPs, will only have one vote in the referendum, exactly the same as everyone else in the country. This should not be a decision for politicians, it is for the public to determine our future. This is a once in a lifetime decision and it is important to be sure of that decision before committing to a vote. I will outline my opinion I next weeks’ article.

If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns please do share them with me on michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk