State Government extends free meningococcal vaccine for young children

Health Minister Roger Cook with Chelsea Cocking and her 8 month old daughter Tahlea who is recovering from W strain meningococcal in PCH.
Health Minister Roger Cook with Chelsea Cocking and her 8 month old daughter Tahlea who is recovering from W strain meningococcal in PCH.

THE State Government has announced it will extend the state-funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine program with new figures showing just 55 per cent of children aged one to four years are vaccinated against the deadly disease.

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.

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.

Health Minister Roger Cook said parents should not put off vaccinating their child.

“Meningococcal disease is deadly, and I ask parents to take advantage of this extended program and ensure their children are protected against this disease,” he said.

“We know that children under five have the highest attack rate of this disease, and now is the time to act.

“Get your child vaccinated – all it takes is a simple trip to an immunisation clinic or GP and it could save their life.”

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

Meningococcal disease case numbers 2013 to 2018:

Year        No. of cases

2013              16

2014              18

2015              17

2016              23

2017              46

2018              36*

 

* 2018 is year-to-date data. Of these 36 cases, 17 have been in children under five years of age.