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Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme

23 September 2004

First 100,000 vaccinated in Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme

New Zealand's Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme today celebrated the first 100,000 people vaccinated.

The immunisation programme aims to stop New Zealand?s devastating epidemic of the fast-moving and potentially deadly meningococcal B disease.

Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy director Jane O?Hallahan said the first 100,000 people represented a significant milestone.

We are delighted with the response from the public, health professionals and schools.

People know this disease kills and maims and they want their children vaccinated,? Dr O?Hallahan said.

The most frequently asked question asked on our free phone is: When can my child get vaccinated??

Pacific parents have been especially quick to respond to the availability of the vaccine in the Counties Manukau region.

Of all the Pacific children aged one to five years, 90 percent have received their first dose.

This is an amazing result and a credit to everyone involved, Dr O'Hallahan said.

There has been media coverage of the slower up-take of the vaccine by Maori but already this has started to turn.

Of all the Maori children aged one to five years, 53 percent have now received their first dose. Maori and Pacific children are at increased risk of the disease and it is vital we reach these children. Initiatives to reach Maori have started and I believe we will continue to see a rise in the numbers of Maori children and young people vaccinated.

For all other children aged one to five years, 73 percent have received their first dose.

These figures do not include the children and young people vaccinated in schools, where there has been a tremendous response across all communities.

Schools have been incredibly supportive and have gone to extraordinary lengths to make the vaccinations run smoothly. One school principal even bought the nurses morning tea last week as he was so concerned they were working so hard, Dr O'Hallahan said.

As well as vaccinating 100,000 people the programme has also administered 108,424 doses as some people are already on to their second dose.

Immunisation started in July in the Counties Manukau region, the area with the greatest risk of the disease. Immunisation is free and available to those aged up to and including 19 years. Three doses of the vaccine are needed, with each dose about six weeks apart.

With parental consent, school students are immunised in schools. Pre-schoolers and those who have left school receive the vaccine at their doctor's.

The programme is being delivered in a staggered roll out throughout the country, as far as possible according to the risk of meningococcal disease in each district health board. The next areas to receive the vaccine will be the rest of Auckland and Northland. Next year the vaccine will be available in other district health boards from Auckland south to Wellington and then from Southland up to Nelson Marlborough, Dr O'Hallahan said.

ENDS

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