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Call for Newborns to Have Access toVaccine

MEDIA RELEASE

SUNDAY, MAY 7, 2006


Call for Newborns to Have Access to Life Saving Vaccine

New Zealand children are at risk of contracting a life-threatening form of meningitis due to the lack of a Government funded vaccination program commonly available in a host of other countries including Australia, the U.S and the U.K.

Speaking at the launch of Meningitis Awareness Week, General Manager of the Meningitis Trust, Fiona Colbert said the deadly and devastating pneumococcal (new-mo-cockle) disease is common in New Zealand and has been reported to cause moderate or severe disability in almost a quarter of all children who contract meningitis in their first year of life. “In addition to meningitis, pneumococcal disease can also lead to other serious infections such as bacteraemia, pneumonia, otitis media and sinusitis,” Mrs Colbert said.

“There is a vaccine, Prevenar, available. In New Zealand, however, it is currently only funded for babies considered ‘at risk’ or available for purchase via a private prescription to parents who can afford it” Mrs Colbert said. “It is not currently widely available to all babies in N.Z, as it is in other countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands.

“The Meningitis Trust is calling on the Government to make this vaccine available to all newborns as a matter of urgency to ensure all New Zealand babies are protected against this disease.”

Professor of Population Child and Youth Health at the University of Auckland, Professor Diana Lennon, supported the call for universal access to the pneumococcal vaccine for New Zealand newborns.

“We know from the experience in other countries that the Prevenar vaccine is extremely effective in protecting children against pneumococcal disease,” Professor Lennon said. “In a US study involving 37,000 infants, the vaccine was 97.4 per cent effective in preventing serotype-specific infections in children who were fully vaccinated.”

“Importantly, recent studies have also shown its effectiveness in reducing the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease in the parents and grandparents of vaccinated children. This type of ‘herd protection’ may result in direct medical savings in terms of reduced hospital stays and treatment costs, and can lead to a significant reduction in mortality for adults”.

The Meningitis Trust said New Zealand parents have a right to expect that their children have access to the same protection as infants overseas. “The Government has taken an important first step in making Prevenar available to ‘at risk’ children. It is now time to make this vaccine freely available to all New Zealand babies,” Mrs Colbert said.

ENDS

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