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Vaccinations Hit 1000 Mark!

Tuesday 1 March 2005

Vaccinations Hit 1000 Mark!

Over 1000 people have received the first of their three Meningococcal B Disease immunisations since it became available in Tairawhiti two weeks ago.

Meningococcal B Vaccine Project Manager Jan Ewart said the programme had got off to a good start but there was still a long way to go.

“This excellent achievement is the result of a huge team effort from people across the health and volunteer sectors. It is fantastic that 1052 people have received their first vaccine but the real challenge for the community will be getting all 3500 of Tairawhiti’s pre-school children aged from six months to five years fully vaccinated.”

Ms Ewart said it was important to remember three vaccinations were needed for best protection.

“Immunisation with the MeNZB vaccine involves receiving three doses of the vaccine, each one about six weeks apart. It can then take a further four weeks for the body to develop protection against the epidemic strain of group B Meningococcal disease.”

Meningococcal B vaccinating started in the district on Monday 14 February. Ms Ewart said the majority of those vaccinated were children under the age of five however some GP practices have reported school leavers aged under 20 are also coming in for their immunisation.

She said Maori communities in particular were playing an essential role in ensuring their people are informed about the dangers of the disease and role of the immunisation programme.
Tairawhiti’s 1000 milestone coincides with announcements last week that throughout New Zealand, the first half million vaccine doses have been given in the Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme.

Nationally, the programme aims to immunise an estimated 1.1 million people in New Zealand aged under 20 years.

On average, over the past five years, 10 people per week have contracted meningococcal disease. On average, over that same period, approximately one person has died every three weeks from meningococcal disease. Of all the confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in New Zealand the epidemic strain accounts for about 80 percent.

Tairawhiti is known to be a high risk area for Meningococcal B. Between 1999 and 2004, 41 Tairawhiti people contracted the disease. Two people have died during that time.

Ms Ewart said most parents were aware that some children who receive the immunisation may feel some level of discomfort from the injection.

“This is normal. Some toddlers may end up with redness or some swelling in the area where they get their immunisation. Coming face-to-face with an injection is difficult, but better a sore arm or leg for a while, than an amputated limb as a result of suffering Meningococcal disease.”

Ms Ewart said it was important to remember that while the Meningococcal immunisation should end the group B Meningococcal disease epidemic, a small number of cases caused by other strains of the illness will still occur.

“So you still need to be on the lookout for symptoms and need to seek urgent medical treatment if they are present.”

Free Meningococcal B immunisations will be available for school-age children from 4 April 2005. Parents and caregivers of school-age children can expect to receive consent forms soon. School leavers aged up to 19 years have been eligible for the free vaccination from their GP Practice any time from February 14.


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