Meningococcal cases at record low

Rates of invasive meningococcal disease in South Australia are at an all-time low, just two years after the Marshall Liberal Government introduced Australia’s first free meningococcal B vaccination program.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said only three cases of meningococcal had been notified so far this year, compared to 22 at the same time last year.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is focussed on keeping South Australians safe and strong during challenging times and the success of this program is helping us to deliver on that commitment,” Minister Wade said.

“As we approach the two-year anniversary of the vaccination program this week, it is tremendous to see the program is saving lives and protecting lives.

“SA Health estimates that 95 percent of babies have received the vaccine, which is fantastic.

“On average over the past five years, we have seen around 30 cases of invasive meningococcal disease every year.

“Two years ago we introduced Australia’s first free meningococcal B vaccination program for children less than four years of age. An adolescent/young adult program started a few months later – that program is a world first.

“The aim of the program was to prevent up to 12 cases of meningococcal B a year and I am pleased to report that there have only been two cases of meningococcal B this year, and one case of the Y strain.

“I thank all South Australian families and carers who have taken advantage of the free program and protected their children and the wider community from this life-changing disease.”

Over the past two years, more than 286,000 doses of the Bexsero® meningococcal B vaccine have been distributed to 547 immunisation providers across South Australia, including GPs, council clinics, community and Aboriginal health centres.

The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Director for Communicable Disease Control Branch, Dr Louise Flood said vaccines are the number one defence against preventable diseases, and we have seen in the current pandemic what a difference having a vaccine can make.

Public health measures in response to COVID have also likely served to reduce cases.

“Meningococcal disease is a devastating illness which can cause death and permanent disability, and the B strain continues to be the most common strain of meningococcal disease in South Australia.”

Free meningococcal B vaccinations are available for children at six weeks, four months and 12 months of age, with adolescents in Year 10 also eligible for a free course consisting of two doses, eight weeks apart.

Under the National Immunisation Program, a meningococcal C vaccination program has been in place in all states and territories since 2003, which has significantly reduced cases of meningococcal C. The current National Immunisation Program includes a meningococcal ACWY vaccine at 12 months of age, and in Year 10.

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