Life-saving vaccine program extended for Year 10 students

By Our Reporter
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Program launched to combat increasing numbers of meningococcal cases across Victoria compared with five years ago. In 2017, there were 89 cases; in 2018, eight cases so far

The Victorian government has extended its life-saving free meningococcal vaccination program for Year 10 students until 31 December 2018 to protect teenage Victorians against the deadly disease.

The vaccination program was launched to combat increasing numbers of meningococcal cases across Victoria compared with five years ago. In 2017, there were 89 cases of meningococcal across the State. This is up from 78 cases in 2016, and 56 cases in 2015.

There have already been eight cases diagnosed in Victoria in 2018 (as of 16 March 2018) with this number expected to rise. The majority of these cases are accounted for by increasing numbers of the previously rare ‘W’ and ‘Y’ strains of meningococcal disease.

One in 10 meningococcal cases are fatal, with death potentially occurring within a matter of hours after diagnosis. Two in every 10 people who survive meningococcal are left with a permanent disability, often losing fingers, toes or limbs.

Young people aged 15 and 16 years old are at a greater risk of carrying and spreading meningococcal bacteria, as one in five carry it in the back of their throats and can pass to family members and friends. The best way to protect young people, and the wider community, is through the free and safe vaccination on offer.

Quotes attributable to Acting Minister for Health Martin Foley

“Our government is determined to protect our communities from this deadly disease by launching this meningococcal vaccination program for another year.

“The program provides young people in our communities easy access to a potentially life-saving vaccine, allowing families to feel confident in the health and safety of their children.”

“The meningococcal ACWY vaccine safely protects against four strains of meningococcal disease, the increasingly common ‘W’ and ‘Y’ strains as well as the ‘A’ and ‘C’ strains. Ensuring eligible young people are vaccinated is essential in protecting the wider community from this deadly disease,” said Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton.

Eliza Ault Connell, who contracted the disease at the age of 16, and is now Director of Meningococcal Australia, said meningococcal disease is a devastating disease that can have severe, lifelong effects.

“Meningococcal Australia welcomes the extension of the adolescent vaccination ACWY program in Victoria in 2018. By targeting adolescents not only are they, the adolescent, protecting themselves but the rate of carriage is reduced in our community. Through education, as well as vaccination, the physical, emotional, financial and social impact of this disease on the individual as well as those around them can be reduced,” Eliza said.

According to the World Health Organisation “Meningococcal meningitis” fact sheet updated in November 2015, the vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect against meningococcal disease.

The free program is available until 31 December 2018 at scheduled school immunisation sessions, local council community immunisation sessions and from the GP.

To find out about local community immunisation sessions please contact your local council. To find out more about meningococcal disease or the free vaccine program visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/menvax

Meningococcal factsheet

  • Meningococcal disease can cause the inflammation of the membrane covering the brain (meningitis), infection of the blood (septicaemia) and severe infections in joints, throat, lungs and intestines.
  • The infection can develop quickly and can cause serious illness or death.
  • The disease is spread by close household or physical contact such as deep kissing.

For more information, visit the Better Health Channel: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/menvax

 

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