The state government will continue to act on the advice of health experts in regards to meningococcal disease, according to Health Minister Michael Ferguson.
It comes after a Launceston teenager was diagnosed with meningococcal B disease on Thursday night – the first confirmed case for the state’s North.
The boy’s case follows that of a four-year-old girl from Devonport in the state’s North-West, who was diagnosed with the B strain of the disease earlier this week. Both remain in stable conditions.
On Friday Mr Ferguson said the government was continuing to take advice from health experts.
“I’d urge Tasmanians to be vigilant, but not panic. As Public Health Services has advised, this latest case does not constitute an outbreak,” he said.
“In relation to our meningococcal immunisation program, we will continue to take advice from the experts.
“Our immediate focus has been on the W strain as per the advice from Public Health.
“This is because meningococcal W has been the most common strain in Tasmania since 2016, and it was in response to an outbreak of meningococcal W in the state’s South.”
Under the current statewide vaccination program for meningococcal ACWY strains, all Tasmanians born after August 1, 1997 and babies who are at least six weeks old, are eligible for a free vaccination. While, B strain vaccinations are available via private prescription from a GP.
Deputy Labor Leader Michelle O’Byrne said given the latest case in the state’s North, the government should be subsidising a B strain vaccine.
“We shouldn’t be saying to some parents – ‘you can protect your child because you can afford it, but you can’t afford it, and therefore your child remains unprotected’. That is simply not acceptable,” she said.
“We have children who may be at risk, and it is simply not good enough that on the department’s website it says – ‘the only protection is vaccination’ – but you have to go and get it even if you can afford it.”
Mr Ferguson said he had raised the issue of meningococcal B vaccinations with his federal, state and territory health minister colleagues as recently as last month.
“The Australian Government has agreed to do everything it can to accelerate consideration of the B strain vaccine on the PBS [Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme],” he said.