Tasmanian government subsidies meningococcal vaccine for school students

QUICK JAB: Launceston City Council Authorized Immuniser Tanya Panitzki administering a meningococcal vaccination to year 11 student Will Robertson Picture: Phillip Biggs
QUICK JAB: Launceston City Council Authorized Immuniser Tanya Panitzki administering a meningococcal vaccination to year 11 student Will Robertson Picture: Phillip Biggs

Meningococcal W vaccinations will be administered across the state as a part of the Department of Human Health and Services’ program to ensure Tasmanian teenagers are protected from the disease.

The vaccine was made available to Tasmanian school students across ages 15 to 19, including recent school-leavers, this week in a bid to combat the potentially fatal bacterial infection.

There are four different strands of the disease (A,C,W and Y), however the W vaccination administered across Tasmania will protect teenagers from all of the different types.

Director of public health Dr Mark Veitch said in a written statement that fighting meningococcal has become a key priority for the Department of Human Health and Services.

“Meningococcal disease is a rare but severe infection that can cause death in five to 10 per cent of cases. Some survivors will have lifelong disability,” the statement read.

“Under this state government program, more than 33,000 15 to 19-year-old Tasmanian teenagers are eligible to receive the vaccine.

“Teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years old were chosen for vaccination because they are particularly at risk of the infection. 

“They may also unknowingly carry and spread the bacteria to others, so vaccinating teenagers helps protect the wider community.”

Meningococcal was the cause of death for Western Australian teen Lloyd Dunham on Saturday while on a vacation in Hobart, representing the fifth reported case of meningococcal in Tasmania this year.

The 19-year-old was visiting his sister in Tasmania for one week, however he reportedly fell ill and lost consciousness on the way to the airport on Saturday.

Mr Dunham did not regain consciousness and died later the same day. 

There is no confirmed information into where he contracted the disease, however Dr Veitch said that the prevalence of Meningococcal is on-the-up throughout Australia.

“Meningococcal W disease has increased significantly across Australia in the last two years, with Tasmania having a higher rate than other states," he said. 

“Tasmania joins NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia in implementing a meningococcal W vaccination program for older teenagers in 2017 and 2018.”

School vaccinations will be administered next year for year 10 students in term one. 

The government-subsidised vaccinations are also available to older teenagers who have left school from their own GP’s. Visit www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/menw for more information on the program.