The McGowan Government has announced it will extend the State-funded meningococcal ACWY vaccine program for children aged one to four years to ensure that more children receive this life-saving protection.
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.
In January, the McGowan Government announced a free ACWY vaccine for one to four-year-olds and lobbied the Federal Government to add this vaccine to the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
In July, a meningococcal ACWY vaccine for one-year-olds was added to the NIP but a catch-up program for children older than 12 months of age was not included, meaning many were left unprotected.
After the Federal decision, the McGowan Government continued to fund the catch-up program which was due to end in December and will now be funded for a further 12 months.
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.
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.
For more information about the Childhood MenACWY Catch-up Vaccination Program, visit https://healthywa.wa.gov.au
As noted by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“It’s great that over 76,000 children aged one to four have received a free ACWY meningococcal vaccine, but we still have 45 per cent of children aged under five who are not vaccinated. We are extending the vaccination program to give parents extra time to get their children vaccinated, but this is not something that should be put off.
“Meningococcal disease is deadly, and I ask parents to take advantage of this extended program and ensure their children are protected against this disease.
“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.”
Meningococcal disease case numbers 2013 to 2018:
|Year of illness onset||Number of invasive meningococcal disease notifications|
- Note: 2018 is year-to-date data. Of these 36 cases, 17 have been in children under five years of age.