[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Parents urged to take up vaccine

The father of a baby girl who is fighting to survive meningococcal disease is urging parents to use the vaccine that has now become available.

A $200 million programme has been launched to try to slow the meningococcal-B epidemic and Perry Bisman wishes it had been introduced in time to help his daughter.

The little girl will have massive scarring for life, having lost both her legs to the knee and both her forearms. The surgery may have to be extended.

"It really took at most three quarters of an hour from a couple of blemishes on her neck to being covered in blisters and black and blue," says Bisman, who wants other parents to take advantage of what has come too late for Charlotte.

"Having seen the devastation of this disease, what it does to the human body, I would definitely urge people to go ahead and have the children vaccinated. It's definitely worth the risk."

Dr Jane O'Hallahan from the Meningococcal Vaccine Programme says they have been waiting for a vaccine for a long time. She says a prevention and control plan has been running since 1997, but disease rates are still at epidemic levels.  

"We've had 14 years of a devastating epidemic," she says.

"Many families in New Zealand have had children who have suffered from this life-threatening disease, so it's very welcome both to health professionals and to parents."

However, the Immunisation Awareness Society is urging parents to be cautious.

Spokeswoman Sue Claridge says the millions would be better spent on fighting risk factors like poverty and overcrowded living conditions.

She says there is a climate of fear about the disease and that it is randomly picking off children.

But Bisman says he would hate to think that someone living in an affluent suburb thought they weren't at any risk.

"Anyone's at risk. It's totally random," says Bisman.

The programme aims to reach more than one million young people over the next year. The campaign will start in south and east Auckland and will be rolled out across the country over the next year.

Bisman hopes it will save other families from the life and death struggle his family has had to face.

Medsafe approved the vaccine after initially delaying its release while awaiting further information from the vaccine's maker.

Health Minister Annette King says it is one of the biggest mass vaccinations undertaken in New Zealand.

Meningoccocal-B has claimed the lives of 220 young New Zealanders in the past 13 years. More than 5,000 others have been left deaf or disabled by the disease.

Delays in the vaccine's approval had led to concerns that some batches would expire before they were able to be used.

King says that is no longer a concern and all available stock will be used up before it expires.

How do you want your news

  • Mobile Devices

    TVNZ is available on mobile phones: Text TVNZ to 8869.

  • News Feeds

    See when TVNZ have added new content. You can get the latest headlines anywhere.

  • Podcasts

    Enjoy TVNZ on the move - a wide range of programmes and highlights are available.