Far Northern parents unaware of Meningococcal B vaccine

Pharmacist manager at Cairns discount pharmacy Erin Treston with the Bexsero vaccine, which protects people from Meningococcal strain B. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

PARENTS are largely unaware of a vaccine which protects against a potentially deadly strain of Meningococcal.

The first confirmed case of Meningococcal strain B was recently detected in the Cairns region but Queensland Health authorities are not advising of the age of the patient, who is recovering.

It is the first case of the severe disease in the region since 2014.

Smithfield Medical Centre nurse Barshi Antonio said most parents relied only on vaccinations offered in the free National Immunisation ­Program, which included the Meningococcal C strain.

The more common B strain vaccine, called Bexsero, was made available in 2014 but is yet to be included in the free jab program.

“It’s available through private prescription and it is quite expensive,” Ms Antonio said.

“Not many people know about this strain – they all know about Meningococcal C but not so much about the B strain.”

She said Cairns paediatricians were trying to “push” the new immunisation.

“If it was within the National Immunisation Program schedule it would be government-funded but it’s expensive and that’s why people aren’t doing it.”

Currently, the recommendation is for four doses of the vaccine for babies and two doses for those over 12 months at a cost of about $140 a dose.

Cairns pharmacist Karna Pandya said getting his children vaccinated against the B strain was a “no-brainer”.

“I had no reservations,” Mr Pandya said. “Meningococcal can be deadly, why take the risk if the research is there?”

Parents who want to vaccinate their children against the strain of the serious bacterial disease can visit their GP for a prescription before ordering and picking up the immunisation from a pharmacy.

“It is one of those vaccines that is starting to become more popular now,” he said.

“The key thing with it is it has to be promoted by paediatricians.

“It is a newer medication but I would personally recommend it.”

Ms Antonio said side-effects included soreness, ­redness or swelling at the ­injection site, fever, lack of appetite, muscle aches, irritability, sleepiness and sometimes a rash.

“We do recommend children have paracetamol 30 minutes before the injection (to help with fevers),” she said.

Meningococcal bacteria ­invades the body from the throat or nose.

SOURCE: The Cairns Post

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