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Grieving mum leads march on parliament

Grieving mum leads march on parliament

MEDIA RELEASE: 24 July 2006

When grieving mum Nicole Edgerton turns up at Parliament on Wednesday it will be difficult for politicians to ignore her plea to give other parents the chance she never had for her baby girl to be protected from the deadly pneumococcal disease. Presley died at just five weeks of age.

Little Presley’s mum, along with a contingent of supporters, will deliver a letter to the Associate Minister of Health, Peter Dunne, asking politicians to consider making a new and potentially life-saving vaccine available to all families and not just those who can afford it.

Presley’s death prompted her parents Nicole and Dean Edgerton to go in search of a vaccine for their other child. They found one in Australia which has almost wiped out the disease that maims and kills about 500 New Zealanders every year. The Edgertons are now lending their support to the campaign in the hope that other families won't have to endure they nightmare they have. They are asking Mr Dunne to put the pneumococcal vaccine, Prevenar, on the 2008 national immunisation schedule. Decisions about this schedule will be made in the next couple of weeks.

Pneumococcal infections are a leading cause of meningitis, bacteraemia, pneumonia and bacterial otitis media [middle ear infection]. Every year, up to 500 New Zealanders are diagnosed with severe pneumococcal disease – 150 are infants. The incidence is significantly higher in Maori and Pacific Islanders communities at 214.5 per 100,000 (1994 Voss), which is considered epidemic according to World Health Organisation standards.

Studies in countries that have picked up the Prevenar vaccine, show that when a large proportion of people in a community is immunised against an infection, the spread of that infection is significantly reduced. This, in turn, decreases the risk of unvaccinated people developing the illness. This phenomenon is called "herd protection” and is an important indirect benefit extended to adults following the routine vaccination of children.

Based on post-vaccination analyses in the United States, “herd protection” would suggest that while baby Presley was too young to be vaccinated, if there was an absence of pneumococcal disease in the community, she would not have been exposed to it.

On Wednesday (July 26), the Meningitis Trust together with families affected by pneumococcal disease and their supporters will deliver the message to Parliament that they want vaccine made available to every New Zealand child.

The group will rally at 1.15pm, under the banner Protect Our Children, and march from the Cenotaph, up the driveway of Parliament to present their letter.

Joining in will be one of the “lucky ones” who escaped meningitis with her life, two-year-old Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman. The little battler is lending support to the Meningitis Trust who has supported her and her family through a tragedy that has robbed her of limbs and the possibility of a normal childhood.

The group will have 150 baby dolls, symbolic of the infants affected by pneumococcal disease in New Zealand annually.

"While we're delighted that the pneumococcal vaccine Prevenar is now available for children under two years, we're reiterating our call for the Government to make it available to all relevant children – not just those who are considered 'at risk' or whose parents can afford it," General Manager of the Meningitis Trust, Fiona Colbert, says.

"The Government should provide this pneumococcal vaccine free of charge through the national immunisation schedule as many parents will simply not be able to afford the $400 or so it will cost to purchase the pneumococcal vaccine privately," Ms Colbert says.

“The trust considers it is imperative to have Prevenar included on the 2008 list as we simply cannot afford to wait another three years for this vaccine to become available. Many other countries, including Australia, Canada, the US, UK, France, Greece and the Netherlands have already implemented universal access programmes. We just want to be able to protect our children," she says.



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