Don’t give up the fight for meningitis jab, says mum of tragic Ipswich toddler Rhianna

Little Rhianna Warner was just two years old when she passed away

Little Rhianna Warner was just two years old when she passed away - Credit: Archant

A mum who lost her two-year-old daughter to meningitis has urged families to keep fighting for a universal vaccine after politicians threw out calls to roll out the lifesaving jab because it would be too expensive.

Rhianna Warner was rushed to hospital when her parents discovered a rash

Rhianna Warner was rushed to hospital when her parents discovered a rash - Credit: Archant

The Government yesterday rejected pleas for the meningitis B vaccine to be given to children of all ages, saying it would not be cost effective for the NHS.

Danielle Watchman, from Ipswich, whose two-year-old daughter Rhianna died from the deadly virus on New Year’s Eve in 2009, described the decision as “absolutely disgusting”.

“It’s all about the money,” she said.

“I feel like they never think about the families who are left devastated by it.

Ipswich toddler Rhianna was known for her cheeky smile

Ipswich toddler Rhianna was known for her cheeky smile - Credit: Archant

“Even if a child doesn’t die from meningitis, they can still be left disabled by it – what happens then? If they don’t do something now they are going to lose more kids in the long run. It’s too much of a risk.”

More than 816,000 people have now signed a petition prompted by the recent death of two-year-old Faye Burdett, which calls for the jab Bexsero to be given to all children, not just newborn babies.

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But in a response, the Department of Health said its priority was to vaccinate those children considered most at risk from meningitis B.

The statement said: “With this programme, our priority is to protect those children most at risk of meningitis B, in line with recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

L-R Dad Ben Warner, Regan Warner, 5, Amaya Warner, 1, and Mum Danielle Watchman

L-R Dad Ben Warner, Regan Warner, 5, Amaya Warner, 1, and Mum Danielle Watchman - Credit: Archant

“The NHS budget is a finite resource. It is therefore essential that JCVI’s recommendations are underpinned by evidence of cost effectiveness.”

On the evening of December 30, 2009, little Rhianna had a persistent temperature and was shivering, so her parents took her to the Riverside clinic. She was transferred to Ipswich Hospital and sent home at around 2am with antibiotics to treat a urine infection.

But by 7am the next morning, she had developed a rash and died three hours later – 12 hours after first seeing doctors.

“She had a temperature which wouldn’t go away. She didn’t have a rash when we were sent home from the hospital, but we were still worried,” Miss Watchman added.

Hospital staff fought to save her, but the tot could not be saved.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean told an inquest held in January 2011 the cause of Rhianna’s death was meningococcal septicaemia.

Seven years on, Danielle and her partner Ben Warner have two young children – Regan, five, and Amaya, who is nearly two.

She admitted she now fears for her children’s lives every time they get a temperature.

“I’m so worried after what happened to Rhianna that I’m trying to sign my kids up to a private hospital,” she said.

“I’d like to tell other parents to keep pushing for a vaccine. It’s a fight we’re all going to struggle with, but it needs to be done. I don’t want anyone else to suffer like we have.”

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