AUSTRALIAN youngsters will be able to access a wider meningococcal vaccine with protection against more strains added to the National Immunisation Program.
Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement today, with the new vaccine covering against against A, C, W and Y strains of the disease.
Nowadays, children are vaccinated against meningococcal C for free, with protection against strain B available at a cost.
There were 86 cases of the disease in WA the year 2000, down to a low of 16 in 2013.
But the condition seems to be on the rise again, with 46 reported cases and six deaths from the disease in WA last year.
There were 382 meningococcal cases reported nationally last year.
Mr Hunt said the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee would also consider the listing of the new vaccine for adolescents next month.
“This is about saving lives, it’s about protecting lives,” he told reporters.
Meningococcal is a rare infection that occurs when bacteria from the throat or nose invades the body.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said there was an increased number of cases of the Y and W strains in the past few years.
“The W strain is the one that’s caused most of the concern with cases increasing both last year and the previous year,” he said.
“This is a great development and I know one that many people have been keenly awaiting.”
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said he was pleased the Federal Government had followed his state’s lead on the MenACWY vaccination.
WA announced last January it would offer vaccinations against all four strains.
“I’m pleased the Federal Government has finally come to its senses after dragging their heels on this issue for so long,” Mr Cook said.
“We have repeatedly asked for the Federal Government to act and they failed to take action, so we just had to.
“On behalf of Western Australian families, I thank the Federal Government for finally acting.
“The State Government’s MenACWY vaccine program for children aged one to four will still continue for the remainder of 2018 as we had intended.
“Western Australian children at 12 months of age can access the free State Government vaccine now rather than wait another six months.”