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Meningococcal B programme update

19 September 2005:

Meningococcal B programme update

Health professionals in the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) region started vaccinating babies, children and young people with the MeNZB™ vaccine in March this year.

The MeNZB™ vaccine protects against the epidemic strain of meningococcal B disease and is free to everyone aged six weeks to 19 years. For maximum protection, three doses are needed, given around six weeks apart.

In Hawke’s Bay the school-based programme will be finished by the end of term four. Approximately 30,000 school-aged children are eligible for the vaccine in Hawke’s Bay and to date 87.2% have received dose one, 85.1% have received dose two and 64% dose three.

High levels of student illness over winter have resulted in additional catch-up clinics being planned to ensure everyone who has consented receives all three doses. Project coordinator, Chris Styles, said she is confident the team will achieve the target set by the Ministry of Health of around 90% of all eligible school-age children receiving all three doses.

Children under five and those who are under 20 but not at school have been encouraged to have their three free MeNZB™ immunisations at their GP or medical centre. In Hawke’s Bay there are approximately 14,000 young people in this category.

“Overall the uptake is pleasing, however, it is a concern there are certain groups of children who are missing out,” Chris Styles said. “The uptake of Maori children under five is less than those of Pacific and other populations – this is not unique to Hawke’s Bay. This age group is at highest risk of meningococcal disease, and with the support of the Ministry of Health we are putting extra resources into targeting this group.

“The Ministry have approved a number of initiatives which will be implemented by Maori health providers and the Maori Women’s Welfare League in Hawke’s Bay. There are plans to immunise in Te Kohanga Reo, special clinics will be held in targeted areas and some clinics will be held in conjunction with Plunket. Mobile clinics and in-home vaccinations will also continue.

“We need to be flexible and innovative to get to those ‘hard to reach’ children - in many cases it comes down to nurses taking to the streets, knocking on doors and doing in-home vaccinations,” Chris Styles said.

The MeNZB™ immunisation programme is due to finish in June 2006. The last date for anyone aged 6 weeks – 19 years to start the course of three free vaccinations is 1 March 2006.

ENDS

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