Meningococcal B vaccine could soon be available in Australia

A FREE vaccine for a deadly strain of meningococcal could soon be ­available in Australia following a ­decision by the ­federal government to fast-track its consideration.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the nation’s chief medical officer consider whether vaccinations for meningococcal B strains should be placed on the taxpayer-funded schedule after it was added to Britain’s immunisation program.

The review will also assess the benefits of placing the W strain vaccination on the public program following a rise in the number of cases.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hunt said he issued the directive on his first day as Health Minister when he took over from former minister Sussan Ley in January.

“It is very much a medical assessment and they are going through that assessment,” Mr Hunt said.

“It is being considered by the medical officer.”

Advice on whether the vaccination will be placed on the publicly-funded program could be released by the end of the month but vital data from state trials will be critical to any decision.

Another option would be to offer the vaccination on a seasonal basis, funded by state governments, targeted at the most affected age groups.

Health experts say the vaccination for the meningococcal B strain used in the UK also offered young children significant protection against the W strain.

Children can be vaccinated for five strains of meningococcal but only the C strain vaccine is the only one currently funded by taxpayers.

Despite the hefty price tag, parents are forking out up to $450 per for a full vaccination course to immunise their children, leading to a year-long shortage of the vaccination.

Last month Mr Hunt contacted manufacturers demanding extra supplies for Australia amid concerns the pharmaceutical company was prioritising counties which include the vaccination on their immunisation program.

New stocks are now expected to hit shelves this week but the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has warned parents that the vaccine was likely to sell out quickly.

GSK have also launched a study in South Australia which will see more than 60,000 high school students vaccinated against meningococcal B-strain.

Health groups hope the South Australian study will encourage the Turnbull Government to include the vaccine on the taxpayer-funded National Immunisation Program.

Mr Hunt said the Federal Government said that data would be vital in deciding whether the immunisation is placed on the public schedule

Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the nation’s chief medical officer to weigh up whether the meningococcal B strain vaccine, Bexsero, should be placed on the taxpayer-funded schedule after it was added to Britain’s immunisation program.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hunt said he issued the directive on his first day as Health Minister when he took over from former minister Sussan Ley in January.

“It is very much a medical assessment and they are going through that assessment,” Mr Hunt said.

“It is being considered by the medical officer.”

Charlie Mason died of meningococcal B, aged 16 months. Picture: Calum Robertson

A South Australian boy, 16-month-old Charlie Mason, died of meningococcal B in November.

The vaccine has been rejected three times by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Board as too expensive.

The Australian Medical Association said the meningococcal B strain vaccination used in the UK also offered young children significant protection against the more deadly W strain.

Children can be vaccinated for five strains of meningococcal but only the C strain vaccine is funded by the taxpayer.

Despite the hefty price tag, parents are forking out up to $150 for each dose of the vaccine, with up to three shots required per child.

The United Kingdom put Bexsero on its national immunisation register in 2015.

All newborn babies in the UK are now routinely offered the jab against meningococcal group B.

The number of cases of meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal group B infection in eligible infants nearly halved in 2016 as a result.

Last month Mr Hunt contacted manufacturers demanding extra supplies for Australia amid concerns the pharmaceutical company was prioritising counties which include the vaccination on their immunisation program.

New stocks are now expected to hit some shelves this week but the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has warned parents that the vaccine was likely to sell out quickly.

Regular supplies will be unavailable until July.

GSK have also launched a study in South Australia which will see more than 60,000 high school students vaccinated against meningococcal B-strain.

Mr Hunt said the Federal Government was providing support to state and territory governments considering similar programs aimed at the most affected age groups.

Health groups hope the South Australian study will encourage the Turnbull Government to include the vaccine on the taxpayer-funded National Immunisation Program.

SOURCE: Daily Telegraph

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment