Medicine

Free ACWY meningococcal vaccine program extended

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The WA Government has announced it will extend the State-funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine program for children aged one to four years to ensure that more children receive this life-saving protection.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

In Western Australia, 76,000 children aged one to four have received a meningococcal ACWY vaccine – this represents 55 per cent of children in this age group. More than 61,000 children remain unprotected.

In January 2018, the WA Government announced a free ACWY vaccine for one to four-year-olds and lobbied the Federal Government to add this vaccine to the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

In July 2018, a meningococcal ACWY vaccine for one-year-olds was added to the NIP but a catch-up program for children older than 12 months of age was not included, meaning many were left unprotected.

After the Federal decision, the WA Government continued to fund the catch-up program which was due to end in December 2018 and will now be funded for a further 12 months.

Of the 36 cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported in this year, 17 of these cases have been in children aged four and under who had not received the ACWY vaccine.

The State-funded program will also be extended to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged six weeks. Aboriginal children represent more than 90 per cent of meningococcal disease cases in under five-year-olds that could have been prevented by the meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle or joint pains, nausea and a rash of red-purple spots or bruises. In babies, symptoms can include fever, rapid breathing, rash, vomiting, irritability or drowsiness. Medical assistance should be sought immediately for anyone experiencing such symptoms.

The WA Department of Health will be sending out reminders to parents whose children have not yet been vaccinated to ensure they do not miss out.

Source: WA Government

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