Teens urged to take up free meningococcal vaccine
Health and Ambulance Services Minister Cameron Dick has encouraged teenagers aged 15 to 19 across the state to receive free vaccinations against four strains of meningococcal disease, during his visit to Calvary Christian College in Townsville.
The Palaszczuk Government has committed up to $6 million for a 12 month vaccination program, following an increase in meningococcal serogroup W and Y notifications in 2016.
Mr Dick said more than 300,000 eligible teenagers will have access to the free vaccine in Queensland.
“The vaccination covers the A, C, W and Y strains of meningococcal disease,” Mr Dick said.
“Every Queensland Year 10 student will be eligible for the vaccination through the School Immunisation Program in the 2017 school year.
“The vaccine will also be available through GPs and other immunisation providers for 15 to 19 year olds, until the end of May 2018.”
Member for Mundingburra Coralee O'Rourke said young adults are the most vulnerable to the transfer of bacteria which causes meningococcal disease, which is why it is so important for them to receive a vaccination.
“This is a simple fix to keep young adults healthy and enjoying life. The potentially deadly disease is preventable through targeted vaccination,” Mrs O'Rourke said.
Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said the Federal Government's National Immunisation Program currently provided protection against the meningococcal C strain, and is given to children at 12 months of age.
“Queensland and other states continue to urge the Commonwealth to put the four strain vaccine onto the National Immunisation Schedule,” Mr Stewart said.
Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said having a multi-strain vaccination would provide better protection against meningococcal and reduces the spread of the bacteria in the community.
“I’m pleased to be part of a government that recognises preventative healthcare is as important as treating people who are already unwell. This program is part of the four directions of the Department of Health’s ten year vision, My health: Queensland’s future: Advancing health 2026.”
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said meningococcal W was an emerging strain that requires preventive action.
“In 2016, 13 cases of meningococcal W were identified, equating to around 30 percent of all meningococcal cases in Queensland last year,” Dr Young said.
“Year to date 2017, there have been 6 cases of meningococcal W notified, which is around 20 percent of all cases this year.
“It’s a very virulent strain and it’s on the rise in Queensland, so anything we can do to combat its rise is a good step.
“Meningococcal Y is also on the increase in Queensland, with 13 cases notified in 2016, and this strain is also covered by this vaccine.”
Meningococcal disease is a severe infection and anyone experiencing symptoms should seek urgent medical attention. Symptoms can include vomiting, fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, joint pain or a rash of red-purple spots or bruises.
Meningococcal disease can lead to death or long-term health issues including limb deformity, deafness, epilepsy and possible loss of brain function. Approximately 10 per cent of cases are fatal.