The Therapeutics Goods Administration has approved Australia’s first combination vaccine that protects against several strains of meningococcal.
It is available for babies from two months of age.
At the moment, babies are immunised from 12 months against the C strain, but this new vaccine protects against strains A, C, W and Y.
Cases of meningococcal have increased since 2013, with 109 cases reported to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System since 2016, Sydney University’s infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy said.
It is understood the new vaccine is available nationwide. However, it is not listed on the National Immunisation Program or the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme. That means it’s only available as a private prescription through healthcare professionals.
Babies require four doses, and reports suggest they will cost up to $100 each.
“Notifications of meningococcal disease usually peaks in late winter and early spring, so today’s announcement is timely and gives parents a TGA-approved combination ACWY vaccine option to help protect their babies from this potentially devastating condition,” Professor Booy said.
“Vaccination against meningococcal disease is effective and should be encouraged. Protection against multiple strains is important, as the most common strains can change over time.”
Meningococcal Australia director Eliza Ault-Connell said vaccination was the the best protection parents could give their children against the disease.
“It’s a devastating disease that can affect anyone, but the toll on the lives of infants and young people can be especially heartbreaking,” she said.
“Meningococcal disease can appear suddenly and the signs are often difficult to recognise. All parents should familiarise themselves with the symptoms, such as a distinctive rash, sensitivity to light and a high fever. But we urge parents to speak to their GP about preventative vaccines.”