The state government in Tasmania is extending the free vaccination program against meningococcal disease – and pharmacists can administer it to children.
Under the broader program announced yesterday (July 26), eligible Tasmanians will receive a free meningococcal vaccine from either a GP, a pharmacist (for children aged 10 and older), special public clinics, or some high schools. The vaccine will cover the meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y.
Following a fifth recent confirmed case of meningococcal disease in the Hobart area, the government is moving immediately to boost the public health response.
Testing indicates four people have contracted the W strain of the disease, including one person who died. There has been one confirmed case of meningococcal B: a 20-year-old man who has been released from hospital.
Consequently, the current vaccination program will be extended to include all Tasmanians aged between six weeks and 20 years (those born from August 1, 1997). This cohort has been identified as the group at greatest risk of contracting and spreading the disease.
The state Health Department’s Public Health Services is in the process of mobilising the extended vaccination program. The first stage will focus on Hobart’s northern suburbs, where a number of meningococcal-disease cases have occurred, and will then be expanded across the state in the following weeks.
Last year, in response to a noticeable increase in meningococcal W cases, the state government intervened with an ACWY immunisation program for 15- to 19-year-olds. Meningococcal ACWY vaccine was later included in the National Immunisation Program as a routine vaccine at age 12 months.
The government will continue to work with public health experts to consider coverage for all vaccine-preventable strains.
Typically, in Tasmania, there are five to six of these cases a year. Last year, there were 16 confirmed cases.