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Vaccine Arrival Marks Big Week for Tairawhiti DH

Media Statement

Thursday 10 February 2005

Vaccine Arrival Marks Big Week for Tairawhiti Health

The first batch of the Meningococcal B vaccine arrived in Gisborne this week marking a significant milestone in the fight against Meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal B vaccinations are available from Valentines Day Monday 14 February 2005.

Around 3500 under-five-year olds are eligible for the free and safe vaccination by visiting their local GP Practice.

Meningococcal B Vaccine Project Manager Jan Ewart said it was a significant week for health in Tairawhiti. She said the vials are the first concrete signs the project was about to begin.

“We have vaccine deliveries all the time but not for a specific New Zealand programme such as this. The vaccine arriving shows all the planning has been for something real,” she said.

A total of 10,000 vials of vaccine are expected to be used to fully vaccinate the under-fives. This month thousands of letters have been sent to families asking parents and caregivers to make appointments for their young children.

Ms Ewart said during the programme GP practices placing their vaccine orders in, and receive the vials the following day.

“This applies to all practices throughout Tairawhiti. Four days a week there will be vaccines being delivered throughout the district.

Ms Ewart said the success of the Meningococcal B vaccination programme depended on the maintenance of the vaccine’s potency, which could be affected by the temperatures it was stored at.

“The vaccines need to be kept between two and eight degrees Celsius to avoid exposure to heat or freezing, and must be kept in special fridges.”

“These fridges, which are worth between $2,000 and 6,000, have been installed in all GP practices and assessed to ensure they meet the stringent Ministry of Health standards.”

“The vaccine has been made specifically for New Zealand’s Meningococcal B epidemic and there are limited supplies. Vials are delivered to the district in specially refrigerated trucks, Ms Ewart added.

Ms Ewart encouraged everyone with children aged under five-years-old to visit their local GP to receive the first of their free and safe vaccines. A total of three vaccines spaced six weeks apart are needed for full protection.

Free Meningococcal B immunisations will be available for school-age children from 4 April 2005. School leavers aged up to 19 years are also eligible for the free vaccination from their GP practice any time from February 14.

The Tairawhiti programme is part of a national $200 million vaccination programme targeting more than a million New Zealanders. The programme is planned to combat the Meningococcal B epidemic which has gripped New Zealand for more than 10 years.

ENDS

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