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Meningococcal B Campaign drawing to an end

Monday 14 April 2008

Successful Southland Meningococcal B Campaign drawing to an end

A large number of Southland health professionals, schools, Maori and Pacific Island community leaders and local businesses should be congratulated for their role in helping to reduce the level of Meningococcal B disease rates in the region, says Rachel Simpson, SDHB's National Immunisation Register Coordinator.

Her comments come on the back of today's announcement by the Ministry of Health (attached) that the Meningococcal B mass immunisation campaign will conclude on 31 May 2008 now that Meningococcal disease rates are at their lowest level in over a decade (47 epidemic strain cases in 2007 nationally compared with 370 cases reported at the peak of the epidemic in 2001). The Meningococcal B programme was planned as a short intervention to control the epidemic with all children and young people under the age of 20 offered three doses of the MeNZB(tm) vaccine, and four doses for babies.

Mrs Simpson said that the mass vaccination programme had been a real success story for Southland - a sentiment echoed by Dr Paul Tomlinson, Paediatrician at Southland Hospital.

"Prior to the campaign we were seeing between 5-10 cases a year, whereas we have only seen one or two cases since the campaign took place. Certainly, there has been a dramatic reduction in the rate of meningococcal disease in Southland based on what my colleagues and I have seen," Dr Tomlinson said.

"There are hundreds of people out there in our community who contributed to the success of this campaign in Southland in an effort to protect our children and young people from the epidemic strain of Meningococcal B disease," Mrs Simpson said.

"Whether it was in the form of General Practice teams vaccinating, or school health nurses organising school clinics, other health professionals promoting the message of immunisation, or businesses providing sponsorship to the Southland team, it was a community effort that has helped us to protect our young people so effectively."

As at 31 March 2008, Southland vaccinators had administered a total of 81,523 doses of the MeNZB(tm) vaccine since the campaign launched on 30 May 2005.

Mrs Simpson said that a total of 26,655 Southland babies, children and young people received the full course of the vaccine - representing 87.1% of the Ministry of Health's estimated target population for Southland.

"In fact, we believe the coverage in Southland is actually higher, as the Ministry of Health's coverage statistics are measured against Census population data rather than GP populations or school rolls. Notwithstanding, this has been an excellent result for our community."

Ministry of Health figures for Southland vaccination coverage includes 79% of the target Maori population vaccinated, 92% of Pacific Island target population and 90% of other ethnicity group target populations protected from the epidemic strain.

"Importantly, the linkages created within the community during the campaign have continued, meaning that we have really strong systems in place to help pick up children who are behind on their childhood immunisation schedule and to get them up to date and fully protected against another nine vaccine preventable diseases."

Mrs Simpson said that the Ministry of Health closely monitors all disease occurrence and vaccine effectiveness and routinely reviews which vaccines go into the immunisation schedule every two years. The announcement that the MeNZB(tm) vaccine will be withdrawn at the end of May and the introduction of Pneumococcal vaccine (Prevenar) ties in with the latest two yearly review cycle.

"The Government's commitment to immunisation is based on sound evidence. The national and international scientific consensus is that immunisation is one of the most cost effective means of preventing disease and improving the health of our whole community."

Mrs Simpson said that children under 5 who had only been given one dose of the Meningococcal B vaccine by 1 June are encouraged to complete the full course at their General Practitioners.

More information can be obtained from - www.immune.org.nz or www.immunise.moh.govt.nz . Further national statistics included in attached Minister of Health media relase.

ENDS


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