South Australian babies and young children will today be the first in the nation to receive free meningococcal B vaccinations thanks to a life-saving program introduced by the Marshall Liberal Government.
Free meningococcal B vaccinations are now available for children aged between six weeks and under four years of age.
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the Government was proud to deliver on its commitment for a free vaccination program to protect babies and young people against the potentially deadly disease.
“Meningococcal is a devastating illness which can cause death and permanent disability, and the B strain continues to be the most common strain of meningococcal in South Australia,” Minister Wade said.
“We are proud to roll out the nation’s first Meningococcal B Immunisation Program, which will help protect young South Australians from this awful disease and prevent an average of 12 cases of meningococcal B each year.
Minister Wade said the meningococcal disease primarily affects babies, young children and adolescents, and the program is targeting these age groups which are at greater risk.
“There have been 382 cases of meningococcal B disease in SA since 2000 which sadly includes 14 deaths. Seventy per cent of those deaths were people aged under 21,” he said.
“The vaccination program is based on clinical evidence and was developed by an expert working group of senior clinicians and immunisation experts who considered various options and made the recommendation we are implementing.
“Previously it cost parents up to $500 for a full vaccination course to immunise their children against meningococcal B – a cost which was out of reach for many.”
“I encourage all parents to talk to their GP or immunisation provider about the meningococcal B program and have their children vaccinated.”
Vaccines for children under four are now available through GPs, local government immunisation clinics, Aboriginal Health Services, Child and Family Health Services (CaFHS) and Country Health SA.
A Year 10 program will begin from 1 February 2019, alongside an adolescent and young adult catch-up program.
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 cases of meningococcal C.
The Federal Government has also introduced a meningococcal ACWY vaccine on the National Immunisation Program for one-year-olds and from April 2019 for eligible teenagers.
There have been 22 cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported in South Australia to date this year and of those 22 cases, 18 have been B strain.
There were 36 cases of meningococcal disease in 2017: 22 were serogroup B, 11 were serogroup W and three were serogroup Y.
For more information, go to www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/MenBProgram.