Low uptake of free vaccine sparks reminder

Approximately one-third of eligible children and young adults could be missing out on a potentially life-saving vaccine, new data shows.

SA Health Communicable Disease Control Branch Director, Dr Louise Flood, said the uptake of the nation-first meningococcal B vaccination program, offering free vaccination for infants and young people, has been slower than hoped.

“South Australia is the first state in Australia to offer free vaccination against the potentially deadly meningococcal B disease, and we are urging parents and eligible young adults to talk to their GP or immunisation provider to have their children or themselves vaccinated.

“The meningococcal B vaccination program began in October last year for babies and young children, and in February this year for adolescents and young adults.

“We have distributed 70 per cent of the estimated number of doses required for children up to four years of age and young adults 17 to 21 years of age.

“Through the School Immunisation Program, 69 per cent of Year 10 students and 67 per cent of Year 11 students have had their first dose of Bexsero.

“We are currently running a catch-up program for children aged 12 months to less than four years, and young adults aged 17 to 21, but this catch-up ends at the end of the year so I would particularly urge people in those groups to make an appointment.

“Winter and spring are typically the time that we see more cases of meningococcal disease, so now is the perfect time to take advantage of the free program and get vaccinated.

“Previously it cost parents up to $500 for a full vaccination course to immunise their children against meningococcal B disease, which has been the most common strain of meningococcal disease in South Australia.”

Meningococcal disease primarily affects babies, young children and adolescents and the state-funded program is targeting the age groups most at-risk.

From 1 January 2020, the program will be ongoing for babies aged six weeks to 12 months, and Year 10 students.

Vaccines for children and young adults are now available through GPs, local government immunisation clinics, Aboriginal Health Services, and regional SA Health, with vaccines for children also available through Child and Family Health Services.

This year there have been 14 cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported in South Australia to date, of which 10 have been the B strain. There were 34 cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported in South Australia in 2018, of which 27 were the B strain.

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