Senior clinicians and immunisation experts will meet today for the first time as part of the State Government’s clinical task group to develop the meningococcal B-strain immunisation program in South Australia.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said that while meningococcal disease is rare, B-strain is the most prevalent in the state and the Government is committed to developing a targeted, local response to have the maximum impact on the disease.

In its current review of meningococcal B vaccination, the peak national clinical advisory group – the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) – has highlighted the need to optimise vaccination amongst a range of priority target groups, including young children generally, indigenous children up to 10 years old, adolescents and young adults.

The clinical group will be informed by ATAGI’s considerations but will not wait for that process to be finalised before recommending a South Australian response.

“There is significant community concern at the need to protect from meningococcal disease and we will act to lift protection in the most effective way,” said Mr Wade.

SA Health’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, said the majority of the meningococcal cases in South Australia so far this year have been B-strain.

“There have been eight confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in SA so far this year, six of which have been B-strain,” said Professor Phillips.

“This compares to only one confirmed B-strain case at the same time last year.

“Due to increasing clinical concern about the growing number of B-strain cases in SA as well as the increasing concern in the community, our Expert Working Group will consider all options for a community vaccination program.”

The Expert Working Group will comprise SA Health clinicians and immunologists, as well as independent experts with knowledge of national immunisation programs and the various populations most affected by meningococcal disease in South Australia.

The announcement of the Expert Working Group into a meningococcal B vaccination program comes just days after the State Government announced a free flu vaccination program for children aged six months and over, and less than five years.

Distribution of free flu vaccine to GPs is expected to commence from Tuesday 1 May 2018, subject to vaccine availability. SA Health will also be working with other vaccine providers to expand the range of places parents can access the vaccinations for their children.

From mid-next week, parents of children aged six months and over, and less than five years, should contact their GP about access to the flu vaccination in the first instance for more information.

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