The South Australian government recently announced that we would be the first state in Australia to introduce free vaccination for Meningococcal B, a potentially deadly infection, for all children.
What is Meningococcal Disease?
Meningococcal Disease refers to an infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria Meningitides (aka meningococcus), a bacteria which is carried in the nose and throat of about 10-20% of the population and can be spread by actions such as coughing or sneezing. While the bacteria can cause relatively harmless infections such as conjunctivitis, it can also cause very serious infections such as meningitis (infection and inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or septicaemia (infection of the blood affecting all organs of the body). These infections can cause serious health problems and even death.
Children are at particular risk due to their immature immune system and the difficulty recognising the symptoms of serious infections in children.
What vaccines are available for Meningococcal Disease?
There are five main strains of meningococcus in Australia: A, B, C, W and Y. Currently, all children receive a vaccination for strains A, C, W and Y at 12 months. While the vaccine for Meningococcal Strain B has been available for a while now, it was not government supported and parents who wanted their child to be protected from Meningococcal B would have to pay up to $500.
South Australia has the worst meningococcal B rates in the country, and it is expected that the decision to make the vaccine free will prevent up to 12 cases of the serious disease each year.
Who Gets the Vaccine?
From the 1st of October this year, children from six weeks to 4 years will be offered the vaccine free of charge. From the 1st of February next year, a catch up immunisation program will be available for those under 21 years. After a year, the vaccine will only be offered to children up to 12 months, and again at age 15-16.
What are the side effects?
Common side effects of the vaccine include:
Pain or redness at the injections site
Low grade fever
These are all temporary and should resolve within a few days. It is recommended for children under 2 years that paracetamol be given before the vaccination to prevent fever. Very rarely, a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine can happen.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
SA Health 2018, Meningococcal vaccines (ONLINE), Available at: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/health+topics/health+conditions+prevention+and+treatment/immunisation/vaccines/meningococcal+vaccines (Accessed 13 Jul 2018)
SBS News 2018, Free Meningococcal Vaccines for SA Kids (ONLINE), Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/free-meningococcal-vaccines-for-sa-kids (Accessed 13 Jul 2018)
SA Health 2018, A Meningococcal B Program for South Australia (ONLINE) Available at: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/b82a9fb7-061a-48b9-be37-54e88a1907d1/2018-06+Optimal+Men+B+Program+for+SA+Public+Report+%282%29.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-b82a9fb7-061a-48b9-be37-54e88a1907d1-mhyL241 (Accessed 13 Jul 2018)
ABC News 2018, Nations first free meningococcal B vaccination to be funded in South Australia (ONLINE), Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-04/free-meningococcal-b-vaccine-in-south-australia/9938802 (Accessed 13 Jul 2018)
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