Family hit out in
Twin Sarah Bell endured a nightmare New Year when she broke out in a blistering rash believed to be a reaction to a meningitis jab.
Sarah's family rushed back to Gloucestershire from a holiday in Cornwall for her condition to be diagnosed. Now mum Delia Weaver has hit out over the lack of information available to parents about the potential side effects of the meningitis vaccine being given to all children.
The family, from Leonard Stanley, grew concerned about daughter Sarah, then 15, when she developed flu-like symptoms on New Year's Eve while on holiday in Cornwall. Mrs Weaver says that by New Year's Day her daughter was unable to move her neck and had broken out in blistering spots the size of a one pence piece across her arms and legs.
The family decided to drive back early from their holiday in a bid to get Sarah to her local doctor as soon as possible. But on arriving at Stroud Hospital, Mrs Weaver said she was told there was only one doctor dealing with both casualties and out of hours surgery appointments.
"I was in total panic and I didn't know what to do next," she said.
"You hear about the symptoms of meningitis coming on very quickly and I thought something dreadful was happening to her.
"All I wanted was someone to tell me what it was and what was going on, but no one was prepared to look at her."
Mrs Weaver had to drive Sarah to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester before her rash was looked at by a doctor.
"They went through all the things they thought it could be and eventually came in with a list of side effects from the meningitis vaccine," she said. "It had everything on there except the spots."
Mrs Weaver said that although her daughter was now on the mend, she was disgusted about the lack of publicity regarding side effects from the vaccine.
Schools across the country have already started vaccinating pupils between the ages of 15 and 17 while babies between the ages of two and four months are also being given the injection.
David Hunt, consultant in communicable diseases at Gloucestershire Health Authority, said while the main side effects were headaches and slight temperature it was possible there were other side effects that had not yet been reported.
"The blisters certainly aren't common," said Mr Hunt. "But like with any new drug or vaccine it is only when you start to use it on millions of people that you may come across the odd side effect that's very rare."
Mr Hunt said the meningococcal C vaccine had been used in trials all over the world involving thousands of people although it was only launched in the UK at the beginning of November.
"Parents should not think their children are guinea pigs, but like everything else it is only when you give it to the masses that some of the really rare side effects come to light," he said.
"Hospitals have been told to report any reaction to the vaccine."
More information on the vaccine can be obtained by calling the Health Information Service on 0800 665 544.
The nationwide vaccination programme to prevent group C meningitis and septicaemia started last autumn. From November 1999 babies at two, three, four and 13 months of age were to be vaccinated when they go for routine vaccinations.
A vaccination programme for young people aged 15 to 17 was introduced to schools and colleges at the beginning of November. From this month vaccinations will also be available for babies aged from five to 12 months and one to four years.
From April 2000 children aged five to 14 years old will be vaccinated.
Picture: Twin Sarah Weaver (right) pictured after her meningitis jab hell