Meningococal B vaccine program gets approved in South Australia

Doctor giving a child an intramuscular injection in arm, shallow DOF

South Australia will be the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce a vaccination program for babies and young people against the potentially deadly meningococcal B disease.

The Marshall Liberal Government today delivered on its commitment to develop a targeted response that will best protect South Australians from the disease.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said an expert working group has developed an evidence-based, statewide vaccination program that will provide immunisations for children aged up to 12 months, as well as catch-up programs for children aged under four years, and later, adolescents.

“Contrary to what we have seen nationally, instances of meningococcal B disease have not declined in South Australia over the past 18 years and it has predominantly affected children, adolescents and young adults,” Minister Wade said.

“Meningococcal infection is a devastating disease that can cause death, and for many survivors, leads to permanent disability and other long-term effects.

“It currently costs parents up to $500 for a full vaccination course to immunise their children against meningococcal B – a cost which is out of reach for many.”

“The expert working group of senior clinicians and immunisation experts has considered various options and recommended this program to provide the best response to combat meningococcal B in South Australia.”

Starting 1 October, meningococcal B vaccinations will be available in a phased implementation with an infant program for babies aged six weeks to one year, and a childhood catch-up program for children aged up to four years.

In early 2019, the vaccination program will be broadened to include catch-up programs for students in Years 10 and 11, as well as young people aged from 17 to 20 years.

SA Health’s Chief Public Health Officer and Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, said a vaccination program for children and young people in these groups would provide the best coverage.

“We know that meningococcal B disease occurs more frequently in infants and children up to four years of age, and young adults aged between 15 to 20 years of age,” Professor Phillips said.

“There have been 372 cases of meningococcal B disease in SA since 2000, which sadly includes 14 deaths, and of those cases more than 60 per cent were in people aged under 21.

“The expert working group found that this program would prevent about 12 cases of meningococcal B disease each year, and prevent one death every two years, as well as reduce the amount of disability experienced by those who survive the disease.”

The first round of the program will start on 1 October 2018, and be delivered through service providers including GPs, local government immunisation clinics, Aboriginal Health Services, Child and Family Health Services (CaFHS) and Country Health SA.

Vaccinations as part of the adolescent catch-up will start early 2019.

The total cost of the program is dependent on commercial negotiations and remains commercial-in-confidence in the meantime.

Under the National Immunisation Program, a meningococcal C vaccination program has been in place in all states and territories since 2003, which has significantly reduced disease from the meningococcal C strain to just 1.2 per cent of all cases.

The Federal Government has also introduced a meningococcal ACWY vaccine on the National Immunisation Program for children aged one, which started on 1 July this year.

Today’s announcement follows the Marshall Government’s introduction of a free flu vaccination program for children aged between six months and five years.

SOURCE: Steven Marshall Premier Media Release.

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