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Good news on Meningococcal B immunisation front

9 May 2005

Good news on Meningococcal B immunisation front

Plunket is welcoming the decision to extend the Meningococcal B immunisation programme to include all babies over six weeks old.

This follows the safe vaccination trial of 4000 babies aged between six weeks and six months old.

"The vaccine has been tested and we strongly advise that parents vaccinate their babies," says Trish Jackson-Potter, Clinical Advisor of Plunket Clinical Services.

"The national average for contracting meningococcal disease in New Zealand is more than triple the rate considered to be an epidemic by World Health Organisation standards.

"What's worse, the risk of a child getting the disease in its first year is ten times higher than the national average. This puts babies under a year old at the highest risk of contracting meningococcal disease in New Zealand," she says.

The immunisation programme is now available across the North Island and, starting in June and July, will be rolled out in South Island district health board areas.

Trish Jackson-Potter advises parents that if the vaccine is available in their area and their children are not enrolled with a health service, or they have not yet been contacted by their health provider, to make their own appointment. Questions about the vaccine or the immunisation programme can be directed to 0800 20 30 90.

Children and young people aged between six weeks and 20 years are eligible for the vaccine and will receive three doses, given about six weeks apart. A booster dose is likely to be recommended for children who receive their first dose before six months.

"No vaccine is 100 percent effective, or covers all strains of a disease, so parents still need to be informed and aware of the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease. Protection may take up to four weeks to fully develop after the final dose, so it is important to begin as soon as possible once a baby is six weeks old.

"This disease moves very quickly. Now that we have the opportunity, parents need to move quickly as well," says Trish Jackson-Potter.


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