South Australia broadens meningococcal B vaccination scheme

Matt Woodley

1/02/2019 1:49:17 PM

Australia’s only meningococcal B immunisation program has been expanded, giving South Australians aged 15–21 access to the free vaccines.

South Australia is the only state that offers free meningococcal B vaccines.
South Australia is the only state that offers free meningococcal B vaccines.

The program, which was initially rolled out last year, will allow teenagers and young adults to receive the vaccine between now and December 31. Previously, only children between six weeks and four years of age could receive the free immunisation.
The expansion is set to provide access to vaccines for 15 and 16-year-olds on an ongoing basis as part of the ‘Meningococcal B Year 10 School Immunisation Program’, while the ‘Catch Up’ program for those aged 17–21 expires at the end of the year.
Likewise, children aged from 12 months to four years only have until December 31 to access the ‘Catch Up Childhood Program’, which began on 1 October last year.
However, vaccinations will be available to all children aged six weeks to 12 months on an indefinite basis.
The program was enacted because while meningococcal B is on a natural decline in most states and territories, the strain has remained present in South Australia.
Overall, the state recorded 27 cases of meningococcal B last year – more than double its annual average – as well as four serogroup W and three serogroup Y cases.
Already this year a 101-year-old South Australian woman died after contracting meningococcal in January, albeit a strain identified as serogroup W, while a seven-year-old NSW girl was rushed to hospital recently with the B strain after her GP spotted signs of the disease.
At the time the $31 million program was announced, SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said it would protect against the roughly 12 cases experienced in the state annually.
‘There have been 382 cases of meningococcal B disease in SA since 2000, which sadly includes 14 deaths. Seventy per cent of those deaths were people aged under 21,’ Minister Wade said at the October launch.
‘I encourage all parents to talk to their GP or immunisation provider about the meningococcal B program and have their children vaccinated.’
Prior to the program commencing, a full vaccination course for meningococcal B could cost up to $500, placing it out of the reach of many parents.
Currently, every state and territory has an immunisation program that offers the Nimenrex vaccine as protection against meningococcal; however, it is only effective against serogroups A, C, W and Y.
The Federal Government announced last year it would also include the meningococcal ACWY vaccine in its National Immunisation Program from April, which will be provided in schools to adolescents in Year 10 aged 14–16 years, as well as an ongoing GP based catch up for adolescents aged 15–19 years who do not receive the vaccine through the schools program.

Immunisation Meningococcal B South Australia Vaccination Vaccine

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