World-first Meningococcal B program for teens

In a world-first, adolescents and young adults in South Australia will be able to receive free vaccinations against the potentially deadly meningococcal B disease from today, as part of the Marshall Liberal Government’s Meningococcal B Immunisation Program.

Premier Steven Marshall said that, after babies and young children, adolescents aged 15 to 20 were the next highest group at-risk from this insidious disease.

“This awful disease has cut short the lives of young South Australians and left others with lifelong disability,” Premier Marshall said.

“That’s why we introduced the Meningococcal B Immunisation Program to help protect those most at-risk, preventing an average of 12 cases of meningococcal B each year.”

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said, to coincide with the new school year, eligible teens in Year 10 and Year 11 will be able to receive free meningococcal B vaccinations through the School Immunisation Program.  

“The program will be ongoing for students in Year 10, however until the end of this year we are running a catch-up program which includes Year 11 students, as well as young adults aged 17 to less than 21,” Minister Wade said.

“Our program is primarily targeting the age groups that are at greatest risk and is based on clinical evidence from an expert working group of senior clinicians and immunisation experts.”

Chief Medical Officer and Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, said there were 257 cases of meningococcal B in South Australians aged under 21 between 2000 and 2019.

“Of those cases, 46 per cent were in young children and babies under 4-years-old, and 40 per cent were in adolescents aged 15 to 20 years,” Prof Phillips said.

“Sadly, these cases included the 10 deaths of young people, and most who survived were impacted for life.

“The uptake of the vaccine since the program was made available to babies and young children has been encouraging, and there have been almost 60,000 doses of Bexsero distributed to providers since the program began.

“I encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated. Vaccinations will be available through the School Immunisation Program for adolescents in Years 10 and 11.

“For all other eligible age groups, I encourage parents and young adults to talk to their GP or immunisation provider and have their children, or themselves, vaccinated.”

There were 34 cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported in South Australia last year. Of the 34 cases, 27 were serogroup B, four were serogroup W and three were serogroup Y.

The catch-up programs for children aged 12 months to four years, Year 11 students, and young adults 17 to 21 years will run until December 2019.

The ongoing program includes babies six weeks to 12 months, who will receive the meningococcal B vaccine at the same time as other routine vaccinations as part of the National Immunisations Program, and Year 10 students, with vaccinations given as part of the School Immunisation 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 disease from the meningococcal C strain.

The Federal Government has also introduced a meningococcal ACWY vaccine on the National Immunisation Program for one-year-olds and teenagers.

More information about the meningococcal B program and eligibility can be found here.

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