29/07/2018 | Edited by Admin
What is meningococcal disease? An urgent public health response has begun following four recent cases of meningococcal W disease in the Greater Hobart area, including three in Hobart’s northern suburbs. Population Health Services are establishing a program to vaccinate all Tasmanians aged between six weeks and 20 years (born after 1 August, 1997). The program will first focus on providing access to free vaccine in the area where three of the recent meningococcal disease cases lived, and it will be expanded across the state in the coming weeks. The program will involve eligible Tasmanians receiving a meningococcal vaccine from either a general practitioner, a pharmacist (for children aged 10 years and over), special public clinics, and some schools. The vaccine will cover the meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y. To date there have been five cases of meningococcal disease in Tasmania in 2018. Four of these were of the W strain, including a teenage girl who died with the disease earlier this month. Meningococcal disease is a rare but life-threatening disease. Tasmania typically has about six cases a year. This means the chance of any single person catching the disease in any given month is about one in a million. What should I do if I think I or someone I care for has meningococcal disease? Seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Who is eligible for a free meningococcal ACWY vaccine? All Tasmanians aged between six weeks and 20 years (born after 1 August 1997) are eligible. Why is the program limited to this age group? Young children and late teenagers are at higher risk of meningococcal disease. Teenagers are more likely to be carrying meningococcal bacteria in their throat or nose and spread the bacteria to others in the community. Vaccinating this wide group of younger Tasmanians will protect them and contribute to wider protection. How do I get the vaccine? Visit our clinic I’ve heard vaccines are in short supply. Is this true? The Tasmanian Government already has a stockpile of vaccines and is ordering more to ensure adequate supply. Private market supplies from individual pharmacies may be limited at times due to increased demand, but this will not affect the vaccination program. Why isn’t a vaccine for the B strain being made available? Our immediate focus is to combat the W strain which has caused all but one recent case in Tasmania this year and currently poses the greatest risk. Tasmania’s long term per capita meningococcal B disease rate is around the national rate, whereas Tasmania’s current meningococcal W disease rate is the highest of all states and much higher than the overall national rate. I’ve already paid privately for a Meningococcal ACWY vaccination. Can I get a refund? No. Funding will be used to purchase vaccines and to quickly and successfully implement the program. Is this different to the meningococcal vaccination my teenage child had recently at school? No. If you consented to your child receiving the meningococcal ACWY vaccine through the school-based meningococcal W vaccination program conducted in late 2017 and early 2018, and you know they received that vaccination, they do not need to be vaccinated again. That program only applied to children born between 1 August, 1997 and 30 April, 2003. If your teenager did not get the vaccine through the 2017-2018 program they are still eligible for this expanded vaccination program, along with any person born after 1 August 1997. My one year-old got a free meningococcal vaccine. Is this the same? From 1 July 2018, one year-olds have been receiving a meningococcal ACWY vaccine, and do not need a vaccine from this new program. Children who turned one before 1 July 2018 will have received a meningococcal C vaccine (combined with Hib). This vaccine only provided protection against the now-rare C strain. They are eligible for the 4 strain vaccine being provided through this program. How long will it take before the program is accessible in my area? Overall, the program is scheduled to be delivered in about 12 weeks. Check local media and this website for updates on how to get the vaccine through the program. Is the program compulsory? No, but Population Health Services recommends every eligible person receive a vaccination to protect themselves and help prevent the spread of meningococcal disease within our community. What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease? Symptoms include fever, severe aches and pains, headache and discomfort caused by light, drowsiness and confusion. A rash may occur as the disease progresses. People with meningococcal disease often go from feeling quite well to extremely unwell very quickly. Are there any risk factors for contracting meningococcal disease? Infants and people aged in the mid to late-teens are at greater risk of contracting meningococcal disease. People who are smokers, or who have been exposed to cigarette smoke are also at increased risk. Some medical conditions that affect the immune system increase the risk, and these children need an extra dose of the vaccine.