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First 700,000 doses Men-B Immunisation given

First 700,000 doses given in Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme

The Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme is achieving historically high rates of up-take with the first 700,000 doses now given to New Zealand children and young people.

The programme which is New Zealand's largest ever mass immunisation campaign is currently operating throughout the North Island and vaccinations will begin in the staggered roll out in the South Island from the end of the month.

Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme Director Dr Jane O'Hallahan said today an estimated 7000 children and young people are now getting vaccinated per day. Public health nurses are currently vaccinating about 5000 students per day in schools throughout the North Island.

In the latest available figures, up to May 1, 2005, more than 95 percent of children aged from one to four years have had their first dose of the MeNZB vaccine in the Counties Manukau District Health Board and Eastern corridor of Auckland DHB. About 90 percent of these children had had their second dose and 79 percent had completed the three doses. In the school-age group of 5 to 17 year olds more than 94 percent had had their first dose and 86 percent had completed their third dose.

"What we are seeing is a spectacular success," Dr O'Hallahan said.

"These are children and young people who have historically had lower immunisation rates. These figures are the result of utter dedication and determination by a huge cast of committed people including nurses, doctors, teachers, parents and staff of the DHBs involved," Dr O'Hallahan said.

In total we now have 172,000 children and young people fully vaccinated.

The Ministry of Health continues to urge everyone whether they are fully vaccinated or not to remain vigliant for signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease.

To date the Ministry of Health is reviewing one case of a fully vaccinated youth who contracted a mild case of the epidemic strain of meningococcal disease and made a full recovery.

"The youth appears to have had a less severe case of the disease. It is possible that the vaccine provided partial protection for this person and lessened the severity of the disease," Dr O'Hallahan said.

It is not possible to get meningococcal disease from the vaccine. The vaccine contains no live or complete bacteria.

With any vaccine there is a small proportion of the population who, for a variety of reasons, do not develop full immunity. These vaccine break through cases occur where a vaccine does not provide optimal protection, and the person still gets some form of the disease.

"A small number of vaccine break throughs are expected as the number of people being fully vaccinated increase. But the fact remains that vaccination is the best protection against this fearsome disease," Dr O'Hallahan said.

To be fully immunised a person needs to have three doses of the MeNZB vaccine and then it can take up to 28 days after the third dose for immunity to fully develop.

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