More than 440,000 people have backed a petition calling for all children to be vaccinated against meningitis B after the mother of a two-year-old girl who died from the disease posted online photographs of the toddler, close to death and covered by a deep red rash.
Last year England became the first country to start vaccinating children, but only those aged two to five months old were eligible.
This came just too late for toddler Faye Burdett, of Maidstone, who died of the disease on Sunday, 11 days after she was rushed to accident and emergency with a rash on her forehead.
Her family posted pictures of her as a happy young girl and then a distressing image of Faye shortly before she died. Her chest, face and arms are covered in the red rash associated with the disease and a mass of tubes and wires are attached to her. Her eyes are closed.
“This is a photo of Faye, two years old, who sadly lost her life to this dreadful disease. We campaign for change in her memory,” her family said.
They said Faye had been transferred to a different hospital and her heart had stopped in the ambulance, but she was revived successfully.
“We were given a 1 per cent survival chance but she proved them wrong and carried on fighting,” they said. “After a few days she seemed to have turned a corner, but the sepsis started to affect her more and the decision of limb removal was made.
“The extent of removal was massive, full leg amputation and one arm and plastic surgery. She was getting tired, her little body consumed by meningitis and sepsis (blood poisoning). We had to make the decision, a massive operation and she may die or we let her go peacefully on her own accord. We decided the latter and then watched our little girl slip away.”
The family called on people to sign a petition calling on the Government to vaccinate all children against meningitis B, not just newborns. “All children are at risk from this terrible infection. There needs to be a roll-out programme to vaccinate all children, at least up to age 11,” says the petition on the petition.parliament.uk website.
On the same day, the former England rugby union captain Matt Dawson revealed his toddler son suffered “two weeks of hell” after being struck by meningitis.
The BBC Question of Sport star tweeted a video showing a slideshow of several photographs charting his young son Sami’s battle with the disease at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
The series of images show the boy lying in bed covered by red blisters and fitted to a collection of tubes, before gradually getting better and posing with his father while receiving a hug from his older brother Alex.
Been umming and ahhhing about whether I should write the next post but my wife and I have agreed it's important. The pic may be upsetting!!— Matt Dawson (@matt9dawson) February 17, 2016
We're overwhelmed by all the messages for Sami. I ask one favour. Please read and sign so fewer kids suffer. Thx https://t.co/rd5xU8lRYO— Matt Dawson (@matt9dawson) February 17, 2016
Mr Dawson, 43, said he had been “umming and ahhing” over posting the pictures but he and his wife ultimately agreed it was important to raise awareness about the disease.
In addition to the pictures he also shared the link to a petition on the Government’s website calling for all children under the age of 11 to be vaccinated against Meningitis B.
The vaccine was introduced in September 2015 for babies born on or after 1 July 2015, and involves a series of three injections at two months, four months and a year old.
According to the NHS, Meningitis B is the cause of 90 per cent of all meningococcal infections in young children.
Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal column.