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Meningococcal Vaccine Plan On Track At Waitemata

Vaccine Approval Means Waitemata On Track For November Start

Medsafe’s approval of the meningococcal B vaccine (MeNZBTM) yesterday means plans to start vaccinating in the Waitemata district in November remain on track.

The Ministry of Health’s announcement yesterday afternoon means New Zealand’s largest mass immunisation programme of 1.15 million people aged under 20 will be able to start.

New Zealand has been gripped by a meningococcal B epidemic since 1991 with more than 5400 cases of the disease reported and 220 deaths.

In the Waitemata district – Rodney, North Shore City and Waitakere City - there have been 453 cases of meningococcal disease since 1992 and at least 20 deaths.

Health Minister Annette King said the approval of the vaccine for use in those aged six months to 20 years meant it would now be possible to combat meningococcal disease.

“The epidemic has shown no signs of abating but now the vaccine has approval we can begin to fight back. I’m also pleased that approval has been given to an extended life for the current batch of vaccine so that it can all be used.”

When Waitemata’s immunisation programme starts in November this year, pre-schoolers aged six months to five years will be prioritised – followed by young people who have left, or do not attend, school - with the free vaccine available to these groups through their usual GP or health provider.

Vaccination of school-aged children will take place in schools in 2005 following completion of consent forms by the child’s parent, caregiver or guardian. More…

The Counties Manukau area of Auckland will be the first to receive the vaccine because of its high rates of meningococcal disease.

The disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious illness including meningitis (infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (a serious blood infection).

On average, for every 100 people that get meningococcal disease, four will die, 20 will suffer a physical disability and others will have ongoing behavioural or learning difficulties.

The vaccine requires three injections to be given six weeks apart and helps to prevent meningococcal B disease by stimulating the body to increase its immunity to the bacteria that causes the disease.

People who require more information can call the Ministry of Health’s free number – 0800 20 30 90 or visit the Ministry of Health website: www.moh.govt.nz.

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