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Four Weeks To First Meningococcal Vaccinations

1 October 2004

Four Weeks To First Meningococcal Vaccinations

It is four weeks until the first vaccinations to protect against meningococcal B disease will be given in the Waitemata district of Rodney, North Shore City and Waitakere City.

Preschoolers aged from six months will be the first to receive the MeNZBTM vaccine at their family doctor when the immunisation programme starts rolling out from November 1.

The vaccination involves three free injections given at about six week intervals to help protect against the strain of meningococcal B disease causing New Zealand’s current epidemic.

Everyone aged from six months to 19 years is eligible for the vaccination but preschoolers will be immunised first because they are at most risk of contracting the disease.

The second phase of Waitemata’s programme will begin in February when school students will start bringing consent forms home for their parent, guardian or caregiver to read and sign.

Public health nurses will then work in teams across the district to vaccinate some 89,000 school students in 185 schools. Young people no longer at school will also be vaccinated in 2005.

This year there have been 33 cases of meningococcal disease in the Waitemata district while nationally there have been 253 cases and six deaths so far in 2004.

The National Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme kicked off in July in the Counties Manukau and Eastern Corridor areas of Auckland where rates of the disease have been highest.

More than 100,000 children and young people have now received their first vaccination in these areas.

More…

Meningococcal 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.

New Zealand has been gripped by a meningococcal B epidemic since 1991 with more than 5300 cases of the disease reported and 220 deaths.

It is hoped that the Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme - New Zealand’s largest mass immunisation programme of 1.15 million people aged under 20 - will help curb this deadly epidemic.

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

ENDS

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