Bella’s parents thought she was fully protected against meningococcal. Now they want action after her death

The parents of a 23-year-old who died shortly after contracting a strain of Meningococcal not commonly vaccinated against are urging the government to do something to protect other people’s children.

Bella Fidler complained to her parents that she was feeling sick in December last year. She died less than 24 hours later.

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“It’s hard to believe that somebody young and healthy can walk into a hospital in Australia and five hours later they’re brain-dead,” Bella’s dad Blair Fidler told Sunrise.

Bella thought she might have contracted COVID-19, and her parents Blair and Jodie Fidler said she initially had a temperature but that it had improved.

About 1.30am the following day, Bella woke her parents up and told them she didn’t “feel right”.

Her parents took her to the John Flynn Private Hospital, near the family’s home in Tugun, where her condition rapidly deteriorated.

Bella suffered a seizure for the first time in her life. She did not regain consciousness afterwards.

She later suffered a cardiac arrest and was placed on life support, before being rushed to the neurology department at Gold Coast University Hospital.

Gold Coast woman Bella Fidler died from meningococcal last year. Credit: Supplied

Tests revealed she was suffering from bacterial meningitis, which would later be revealed to have developed from her contracting meningococcal B.

Bella was kept on life support for her loved ones to say goodbye, but her condition was not survivable.

She died within 24 hours of first becoming sick.

While Bella’s parents thought she was fully vaccinated against meningococcal, they learned after her death this was not the case.

She had the free meningococcal vaccine in high school, which covers the A-C-W-Y types, but not the B strain.

A meningococcal vaccine covering the B strain is available privately, but costs about $380. Only South Australia provides the shot for free.

Blair and Jodie Fidler thought their daughter Bella Fidler was fully protected against meningococcal. Credit: 7NEWS

Grief-stricken dad Blair said he was “absolutely” shocked to learn the state-based vaccine program did not cover the B strain of the meningococcal disease.

“I guess the thing that really shocked us is the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends this for all infants and teenagers, but when we spoke to our friends and our family, almost nobody was aware of this,” he said.

“We just want people to be aware and informed about it because it’s not something many people really know about,” mum Jodie said.

“We live on the Gold Coast and there’s going to be lots of music festivals, big schoolies events coming up in the coming months.

“Those are like the prime locations for a meningococcal outbreak to occur.

“Now that COVID restrictions have eased, there’s been a significant increase in numbers, well over 70 per cent increase on this time last year.

“So it’s really important that people are aware and educated about it.”

Bella Fidler died less than 24 hours after telling her parents she didn’t ‘feel right’. Credit: 7NEWS

The family is calling on the Queensland government to add vaccination for meningococcal B — now believed to be the most dominant strain of the virus in Australia — to the immunisation program.

“It is very expensive and many families can’t afford it, so that’s exactly why we’re asking the Queensland Government to put this on the schedule,” Blair said.

“Hopefully, we can avoid this situation for other families in future.”

Bella Fidler was set to attend her graduation ceremony a few weeks after her death. Credit: 7NEWS

A petition has been created, calling on the government to add the vaccine to the state schedule.

“What we want to achieve through that is to get the government’s attention, make them realise that some action needs to be taken immediately, not in a few years’ time when it’s too late and more lives have been lost,” Jodie said.

She urged people to sign the petition.

“We’ve already had over 700 people sign it in just over a week, so it’s an issue for many people,” she said.

Bella Fidler’s parents launched a petition for meningococcal B vaccines to be added to the Queensland state vaccine schedule following her death. Credit: 7NEWS

Currumbin MP Laura Gerber is a vocal supporter of the petition.

“We do not need to wait for a deadly outbreak in order to vaccinate our children against this disease,” Gerber said.

“Meningococcal B is a vaccine-preventable disease.

“And if our children are given the B strain as part of the state-based immunisation program, then they can be protected.

“At the moment in Queensland there are 14 cases. That’s a 71 per cent increase on last year, and the peak is the end of winter, so we haven’t even reached the stage where we’re going to see cases rise.

“Our children are not protected from this strain.”

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