Victoria joins NSW and WA to fund immunisation for teenagers against the W strain of meningococcal
Victoria has become the third state to launch an immunisation program for teenagers against an increasingly virulent strain of meningococcal.
The free, state-wide immunisation program for 15- to 19 year-olds targets the spread of W serogroup of meningococcal in Victorian schools.
“Most young parents are familiar with meningococcal C and B, [but] there is a new strain of meningococcal,” Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.
The Victorian initiative follows the $6 million vaccination program launched in WA and a $9 million NSW program.
“Experience in the UK and elsewhere suggests that without effective intervention now, W infection rates will escalate,” WA Health Minister John Day said.
The W strain had an 8% mortality rate over the past decade, compared with 4% for other strains.
Cases of infection with the W strain have almost tripled in Victoria from 17 diagnoses in 2015 to 48 last year. Similar increases have been seen in NSW.
Teenagers are more likely than other age-groups to contract meningococcal due to social behaviour such as kissing and sharing cigarettes.
“In light of the fact that we’ve had 48 notifications, it’s important to try and get vaccination into a part of our population that is most at risk,” said Ms Hennessy.
Meningococcal C vaccination is given to babies at 12 months and is covered under the National Immunisation Program.