Five month wait for Meningococcal B-strain vaccination

SOUTH Australian families desperate to safeguard their children’s health are being forced to wait up to five months for their children to be vaccinated against the deadly meningoco
ccal B disease.

The Advertiser can reveal one Adelaide pharmacy has a waiting list of 125 people wanting the Bexsero vaccine, as global demand for the drug continues to soar.

Pharmacists said vaccine stocks were unpredictable and arriving only sporadically, forcing parents desperate to safeguard their children’s health against the acute bacterial infection to register on waiting lists across the city.

Myrtle Bank motKoufalas familyher Kelly Koufalas has waited five months for her children, Manny, 3, and Zahra, 5, to receive their second and final dose of the Bexsero vaccine, which protects against a
bout 76 per cent of meningococcal B strain.

Her children were now 15th on a pharmacy waiting list of 125 people.

“We’re concerned about the level of effectiveness given it’s now five months since the first injection and we’re disappointed we weren’t consulted about our options around the shortage,” Mrs Koufalas said.

“No one can give us any information on if it’ll be effective and we’ve obviously started the process and traumatised our kids starting the vaccinations.

“This could be detrimental to our kids if they get this germ and there have been so many cases, even since last year, when it first went through SA.”

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline released more Bexsero this month, but said pharmacies’ stocks had been quickly depleted to fill back-orders and waiting lists.

GSK has previously committed to delivering five times the volume of the vaccine to Australia, compared with last year, but no dates have been provided.

The company said it expected supply to meed demand by midyear, but that time frame has blown out twice since first being by reported by The Advertiser August last year.

Findon Chemplus pharmacist Matthew Fietz said their store had only received about 20 vaccinations this year, with people waiting more than four months to receive it.

“The vaccines come in dribs and drabs,” Dr Fietz said.

People ring around and once you tell them the situation a lot don’t bother leaving their details as I suspect they have their names down at multiple locations.”

National Pharmacies, in Cumberland Park, has 125 people on its waiting list, including Pharmacist Dr Victor Chong, who wanted the vaccine for his son.

“I understand the frustration because I’m a parent and I’m on the wait list myself,” Dr Chong said.

“I never thought it would get this bad. I work in another store and we have an even longer list.”

Chemmart Pharmacy pharmacist Wendy Wap said there were 40 people on its Cumberland Park waiting list and there was no guarantee from the supplier on the next delivery of Bexsero.

Highgate Pharmacy pharmacist Paul Straschko said while their waiting list of 10 people may be smaller, but the problem was widespread.

“Multiply the wait list across 500 pharmacies and the potential wait list could be 5000,” Dr Straschko said.

“We have people waiting since November last year and you’ll find the same story with most pharmacies.

“The wholesalers have an estimated date when more vaccines will be released, but that date keeps getting pushed out, so we’re reluctant to tell people.”

Meningococcal symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, a stiff neck, sore muscles and a rash of red and purple spots which can be fatal.

The Meningococcal B vaccine differs from the C-strain, which is given to children aged 12 months through Australia’s childhood immunisation program for free.

The Bexsero vaccine is not listed on the National Immunisation Program schedule, which means parents have to pay full price — around $125 per injection

For children under 12 months, four vaccinations are needed, while adolescents require two shots recommended two months apart.

The University of Adelaide and SA Health will vaccinate up to 60,000 students in years 10, 11 and 12 this year, in a program funded by GSK.

The most recent meningococcal case in SA was a three-year-old girl from regional SA, who was diagnosed earlier this month with the W strain and admitted to hospital in a stable condition.

In SA this year, the
re have been four cases of the disease — two have been the W strain, one was Y strain, and one was the B strain — compared with six cases at the same time last year.

The SA Health Department referred The Advertiser’s inquiries to the federal Health Department, which did not return phone calls.


SOURCE: Herald Sun

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