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More Maori Succumb To Meningococcal Epidemic

Maori Children Four Times More Likely To Succumb To Meningococcal Epidemic - Maori children are more than four times likely to contract meningococcal B than their pakeha counter-parts.

Western Bay of Plenty iwi Ngaiterangi and Ngati Ranginui have joined forces to raise awareness about the killer disease meningococcal B and its new vaccine MeNZB.

Project manager Kim Skinner of Ngati Ranginui says it's important for Maori families to immunise their children because the risk against them is so much higher.

"Statistics show us one in 100 Maori children under the age of five will contract meningococcal B as opposed to one in 438 paheka children.

"Because our tamariki are so much at risk it's crucial for them to get their first MeNZB immunisation immediately."

Skinner says some families in the Western Bay who are "sitting on the fence" need to stop procrastinating and immunise their children.

"It confuses me when parents say they aren't going to vaccinate their child because they've heard it hurts their arm.

"It's true most children will have a bit of an achy arm for a couple of days after being vaccinated, but surely that's preferable to getting meningococcal and possibly facing losing the arm altogether, not to mention the threat of death or any other permanent effects of the disease."

More than half a million vaccinations have now been administered throughout the top half of the North Island. Not a single incident or serious side effect has been reported from any of those immunised with MeNZB.

Skinner says while some families are holding off immunising their children, many Maori families in the Western Bay have already acknowledged the threat of meningococcal and have made immunising their children a priority.

"We are encouraged to hear from some local practises that Maori families are enthusiastic and pro-active about getting the free MeNZB immunisation.

"They've taken the first step towards protecting their kids, now we can only hope all parents and caregivers will be as responsible."

MeNZB vaccinations are free to all those under 20 years of age through all local medical clinics. A series of three vaccinations are needed, six weeks apart for a child or young person to be fully immunised.

There are no live meningococcal bacteria in MeNZB and it is not possible to catch the disease, or to become a carrier of the disease, from the vaccine.

To find out more information, phone the free Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme freephone number on 0800 20 30 90.

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