Free vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram ex­tended

Hills Gazette (Kalamunda) - - NEWS - Sarah Brookes

AN out­break of po­ten­tially deadly meningo­coc­cal dis­ease in WA has prompted the State Gov­ern­ment to ex­tend its free vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram to chil­dren aged one to four years.

Health De­part­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­ease Con­trol Direc­torate act­ing di­rec­tor Dr Paul Ef­fler urged par­ents to con­sider vac­ci­nat­ing their child.

“We have seen this W out­break re­ally start to ac­cel­er­ate in the last two quar­ters so we want to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our com­mu­nity,” he said.

“The W strain is a new strain and it’s more vir­u­lent and the six deaths we had in 2017 were all caused by the W strain.”

Dr Ef­fler said meningo­coc­cal was a med­i­cal chal­lenge to di­ag­nose and treat so pre­ven­tion was bet­ter than cure.

“Many of us carry the bug in the backs of our throats, par­tic­u­larly teenagers,” he said. “Most of them are fine. In the early stages of that in­fec­tion it can be hard to recog­nise it from other com­mon child­hood ill­nesses. Un­til (an in­fected child) gets a rash or starts show­ing signs their brain might be in­fected, you might not know it’s meningo­coc­cal dis­ease. By then you are al­ready chas­ing a very se­ri­ous ill­ness.”

Dr Ef­fler hoped the ex­ten­sion of vac­cine to younger chil­dren would stop the spread of the dis­ease.

“We have seen a re­duc­tion in cases that typ­i­cally oc­cur in that 15- to 19-year-old co­hort af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the funded State-wide meningo­coc­cal ACWY vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram,” he said.

“This age group has gone from 20 per cent of cases over the last sev­eral years to 2 per cent last year.

“I don’t know that that is the vac­cine, but it is en­cour­ag­ing.

“We’re not wor­ried the vac­cine won’t work, but there is al­ways a worry in bi­ol­ogy that the germ could mu­tate,” he said.

Health Min­is­ter Roger Cook took a swipe at the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and called for it to add the MenACWY vac­cine to the Na­tional Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Pro­gram.

“Pro­vid­ing vac­cines to pro­tect pub­lic health is a Com­mon­wealth re­spon­si­bil­ity, yet they have re­mained idle on this is­sue for too long – leav­ing the State Gov­ern­ment to take con­trol yet again on meningo­coc­cal vac­ci­na­tions,” he said.

“The State Gov­ern­ment is not pre­pared to put the lives of more West Aus­tralians at risk while we wait for the Com­mon­wealth to act.”

Last year, WA had 46 cases of meningo­coc­cal dis­ease, six of which were fa­tal.

The high­est at­tack rate oc­curred among chil­dren younger than five years of age.

The free vac­cine will be avail­able through­out 2018 and is ex­pected to cost the State Gov­ern­ment $5.7 mil­lion.

Par­ents should con­tact their lo­cal GP or child health clinic to sched­ule an ap­point­ment to re­ceive the vac­cine.

Amelia Simp­son (4) get­ting the free meningo­coc­cal ACWY vac­ci­na­tion at Stirk Park Med­i­cal Cen­tre in High Wy­combe.

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