- Australian-first targeted meningococcal ACWY immunisations
- Three-year vaccination program for high-risk teenage carrier group
- Rise in cases of meningococcal W strain prompt campaign
- School Term 2 scheduled for immunisation start
A vaccination to protect against meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y will be offered to 15-19 year olds in an Australian-first, State-wide program to start in school Term 2.
Health Minister John Day said the campaign was in response to a concerning increase in the number of meningococcal W cases in Western Australia and other States and Territories.
“The incidence of the W strain has been rising since 2013 but jumped from four in 2015 to 14 last year,” Mr Day said.
“This compares with just three cases of meningococcal W in WA during the four-year period to 2014.
“Experience in the United Kingdom and elsewhere suggests that, without effective intervention now, W infection rates will escalate.
“While we continue to work with the Commonwealth and other States on a national approach, in the face of the tripling of meningococcal W cases seen across Australia last year, the WA Government has decided it is time to act.”
The Minister said research showed vaccinating 15-19 year olds was the most effective way to prevent the spread of meningococcal.
“Teenagers in this age group are not only among the most susceptible, they are the biggest carriers of the meningococcal bacteria in the community,” he said.
“More than 150,000 WA students and young adults are expected to be vaccinated over the three-year program, with the cost covered by the State Government, making it free to the target group.”
This year, the program will provide immunisations in school to Year 10, 11, and 12 students, with additional vaccinations conducted at community health clinics to capture 18-19 year olds and other age-eligible persons not attending high school.
In 2018 and 2019, the program will target incoming Year 10 students only.
“The school-based vaccination program is expected to begin when sufficient vaccine supplies have been delivered, starting in school Term 2, with the majority of vaccinations planned for Term 3,” Mr Day said.
“Parents can expect to receive meningococcal W vaccination consent materials through their child’s school.”
The Minister warned that vigilance was still vital in countering the impact of the disease.
“This program is an important tool in the continual fight against meningococcal but it is not the single solution,” he said.
“While meningococcal remains relatively uncommon, it can progress rapidly, with potentially deadly results so it is crucial that people are aware of the early signs and symptoms of the disease.”
Symptoms may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains. Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (blank staring, floppiness, inactivity, being hard to wake, or poor feeding) and rash are important signs.
Sometimes – but not always – symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.
- The meningococcal ACWY program will run for three years and be funded by the State Government
- The estimated cost for the first year of the program is $6 million
- Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10-20% of the population at any one time
- On rare occasions, the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause serious infections
- Although treatable with antibiotics, meningococcal infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms seeks medical attention promptly
- With appropriate treatment, most people with the disease recover, although about 5% will die and about 15% may experience complications such as hearing loss, or gangrene requiring skin grafts or amputations
- An ACWY vaccination program was implemented in Kalgoorlie in December 2016 after five cases of meningococcal W in the area over a two-month period
- To date, the Kalgoorlie program has administered more than 3,400 vaccinations
- For more information about the meningococcal disease W visit, http://www.health.wa.gov.au