One million children to get Meningococcal C vaccine sooner
One million more children aged over 12 months to five years will receive free meningococcal C vaccine from early next year as part of the Federal Government's $300 million program to combat the potentially fatal disease.
24 November 2002
One million children to get Meningococcal C vaccine soonerOne million more children aged over 12 months to five years will receive free meningococcal C vaccine from early next year as part of the Federal Government's $300 million program to combat the potentially fatal disease.
The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said one million more young children would be vaccinated up to 12 months sooner than originally planned because of the availability of extra supplies of the meningococcal C vaccine.
Also, adolescents at school, aged 15 to 19 years, will be vaccinated at school next year.
Senator Patterson said a worldwide shortage of the vaccine and uncertainty about securing supplies had originally restricted the Government's initial roll-out of the vaccine to the highest risk groups of children turning 12 months and adolescents at school aged 15 to 17 years.
"But now the Federal Government has approved an earlier roll-out of the vaccination program because we have secured extra supplies of the vaccine.
"In the first year of the program, children who are one to five years of age, will be vaccinated by their general practitioner. Adolescents at school aged 15 and over will also receive the free vaccine.
"Children aged six to 14 years will be vaccinated at school during 2003-04 and 2004-05."
The Federal Government has approved funding of $190 million to expand the National Meningococcal C Vaccination Program to ensure that every Australian child and adolescent aged one to 19 years will get free vaccine. The funding is in addition to the $101 million approved in August for this program.
Senator Patterson said the $291 million meningococcal C program was the most expensive vaccination program in Australia. It would provide free vaccine to nearly six million children and adolescents over the next four years. Ongoing funding will be provided for routine vaccination of all children turning 12 months.
"Expenditure on vaccines will more than double this financial year, from $85 million to $187 million, as a result of the meningococcal C vaccination program, she said.
The type-C strain has emerged as a leading cause of meningococcal death. It predominated in Victoria this winter where it was responsible for 57% of cases and 80% of all deaths. That makes acceleration of this program particularly important.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration recently approved two new suppliers of the meningococcal C vaccine, taking the number of companies supplying the vaccine to three.
This has helped to relieve the vaccine shortage experienced earlier this year, and make more stocks available for the expansion of the National Meningococcal C Vaccination Program and accelerating the roll-out of the initiative.
The approval of funding for the program follows recent detailed expert scientific advice and economic analysis on meningococcal disease and vaccination issues by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
The National Meningococcal C Vaccination Program will be a co-operative effort with State and Territory Governments, the community, general practitioners and other immunisation providers.
"It remains vitally important for people in the community, and especially parents and doctors, to be alert in looking out for the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease. This vaccine only protects against type-C disease so community vigilance remains an integral part of this response," Senator Patterson said.
Media Contact: Randal Markey, Media Adviser, 0417 694 520