MILLIONS of families could be put in danger for decades to come unless the Government endorses a new meningitis B and septicaemia vaccine, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation.

In their decision not to endorse the vaccine, the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation cited cost effectiveness and a drop in cases.

One man watching those developments with a keen eye was Brian Orange.

Mr Orange likes to joke that he has used three of his nine lives.

But the grandfather knows better than most that the illnesses which caused the loss of those metaphorical lives are deadly serious.

In his lifetime, Mr Orange, 67, has been confronted by no less than three life-threatening diagnoses – including meningitis, which was recently the subject of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the potentially devastating disease.

The founder of Winchester-based Orange Chemicals recalls the night in 1991 when, aged 45, meningitis struck.

“It was Halloween and people were throwing fireworks around outside. I was feeling really rotten.

“The doctor said ‘you’ve got pneumonia and bronchitis’, but he said the one thing I didn’t have, was meningitis!

“But when my wife got back I could hardly string a sentence together and was sweating and getting worse and worse.”

And it’s symptoms like those that campaigners want to raise awareness of, as they say meningitis and septicaemia affects on average 3,600 people a year. But they find themselves at the centre of a fierce debate as parliament’s joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has chosen not to recommend the newly licensed MenB vaccine, Bexsero® - a decision criticised by the Meningitis Research Foundation.

A spokesman said: “We are strongly opposing this decision. MenB causes on average 1870 cases a year, of which 5 per cent will die. Of the survivors, one in three have long term health effects and one in ten will have a major disability.”

Back to Halloween, 1991, and Mr Orange’s wife, D (correct), has called the doctor out again.

He was now displaying at least two of the signs – a stiff neck and an aversion to bright lights. But he didn’t have red spots on his ankles.

“I suppose you cannot have everything in life!” he says.

Although light-hearted now, Mr Orange is under no illusions as to the seriousness of his situation.

“I was taken off to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in time and survived, but my point is that if you wait an extra 12 hours without treatment, then that’s very serious. You go downhill very, very quickly,” he says gravely.

From the comfort of an armchair at home in King’s Somborne, where he has lived since 1972, and with his faithful Springer Spaniel, Nutmeg, at his side, he explains he knew little of what was happening at the time.

“I was thrashing around on a trolley,” he says, before adding that it was more distressing for his wife.

Mrs Oranges takes up the story: “It was frightening. He was being sick and I was mopping his brow.

“I was aware of meningitis, and I knew it was serious, but still didn’t really know what it was.”

After a week in hospital and around 8 weeks rest and recovery, Mr Orange was up and about again and he says he’s fortunate the episode has had no lasting effect on his health.

But a bitter blow was struck five years ago when he was diagnosed with a type of cancer, multiple myeloma.

Then, as if to test the very limits of credulity, fate handed the Orange family another cruel obstacle to climb.

“I was about to have a stem cell transplant. Then I was driving home one day and was feeling unwell. I pulled over by the post office and had a seizure. They took me to hospital and did a CT scan, which showed that my aorta vein was far too big – it’s one of those that if you burst it, you’re dead,” he says.

Now on his third treatment for the myeloma – the first two of which he says “zapped it quite well” – he now dedicates much of his time to fundraising and raising awareness of the illness.

Such a sequence of events might leave lesser men embittered and despondent, but Mr Orange, every inch the old school gent, appears unfailingly chipper and courteous – surely no mean feat in the face of one heavy blow after the other?

In a classic display of British understatement, Mr Orange replies: “I was quite cross at the time.”