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Free meningococcal B vaccine program expanded in Queensland


Jolyon Attwooll


4/08/2023 4:30:24 PM

The State Government will follow the lead of South Australia in offering free vaccination to infants and adolescents from next year.

Teenage boy getting vaccination
The vaccination program is set to expand, offering adolescents protection against meningococcal B.

The College has welcomed an expanded meningococcal B vaccination program for young children and adolescents in Queensland.
 
On Friday, the Queensland Government announced that it plans to invest $90 million over the next three years to offer free vaccinations for all infants and children under the age of two, and teenagers aged 15–19.
 
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins welcomed the decision, saying that it could save lives.
 
‘Meningococcal B must be taken seriously,’ she said.
 
‘This is a rare but terrible disease that without urgent care can result in death or disability. Just a few years ago, a two-year-old died from meningococcal B at my practice and it is something that you never forget.’
 
Under Australia’s National Immunisation Program (NIP), vaccination against meningococcal B is only funded for those with certain medical conditions that increase their risk of invasive meningococcal disease.
 
The NIP covers the ACWY strains, but the B strain is usually an additional self-funded option for most children of normal risk.  
 
However, the South Australian Government expanded its coverage to offer free access to the B strain vaccine to Year 10 students, an initiative that started in 2019.
 
Between 1997 and 2016, almost 400 people are estimated to have died from meningococcal disease, with around a third of those deaths among children younger than five.

There have been some high-profile meningococcal deaths among young adults in recent years, which has also led to calls for greater coverage of the B strain.
 
Dr Higgins said the Federal Government should consider expanding the availability of the B strain immunisation further.
 
‘Unfortunately, there just isn’t a high level of awareness in the community that a different vaccine is needed for meningococcal B, and that is something I would like to see change because this disease is a killer,’ she said.
 
‘There is evidence that meningococcal B is emerging as a more common cause of death and one reason may be a result of widespread vaccination in the community against the other meningococcal strains.
 
‘We join AMA Queensland in saying that we hope the Federal Government takes note of this timely decision and adds the B strain vaccine to the NIP so all young people across Australia are protected from this terrible disease.’
 
The vaccinations in Queensland will take place through childhood and school immunisation programs.
 
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meningococcal B National Immunisation Program vaccination


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