PARENTS who want to give their child some protection against the killer B strain of meningitis must pay €88 for the vaccine.
The vaccine is not yet available for free, and a top-level advisory committee is still looking at whether it should add it to the normal schedule of jabs given to children.
Meningitis Research Foundation welcomed the news that the first stocks of the vaccine Bexsero have arrived in Ireland for private sale. But it now wants the vaccine to be added to the normal schedule.
Meningococcal B infection is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in Ireland, and kills more children under five than any other infectious disease.
The charity's manager Diane McConnell said: "We know of hundreds of families already affected by MenB who would love to have their children vaccinated, but simply cannot afford to.
"A fairer and more effective approach is to implement this vaccine through the childhood immunisation schedule so that it's free for all our children.
"Ireland has the highest rate of meningococcal disease in Europe and MenB is a significant contributor to this appalling fact.
"The Department of Health should be deploying every available vaccine to counter it. We will continue campaigning for this until it's introduced universally."
Sandra Kinsella, a mother from Cavan who is a member of the charity, said: "My son Mark contracted meningococcal septicaemia when he was six years old and we are so lucky that he is here with us today. After a very frightening stay in hospital, he made a remarkable recovery and is now a strapping teenager.
"I would hate to think of other families going through what we went through, or even worse losing a child to this devastating disease because they cannot afford to pay for vaccinations privately."
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee said it would decide next year whether the vaccine would be made available free.
Chairman of the committee Dr Kevin Connolly said it was continuing to look at whether it should recommend the vaccine. It will discuss it matter again at its next meeting in January. It was "one of the more difficult decisions", he said.
The incidence of meningitis B has fallen in the past decade and the vaccine is expensive, needing four separate injections.