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$200 million group B meningococcal campaign

Health Minister Annette King today announced a commitment of up to $200 million to the Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy to be funded over a five-year period, with $35 million to be spent in 2002-03.

Ms King said New Zealand was experiencing a group B meningococcal epidemic. “Over the past 11 years more than 4300 New Zealanders have contracted the disease, up to 20 per cent of whom have been left with serious physical or mental disability, including brain damage, deafness, loss of limbs or damaged skin requiring extensive skin grafts,” Ms King said.

Rates continue to be high in 2002 with no sign of the epidemic waning.

Earlier this year, the government pledged more than $100m to develop, trial and deliver a vaccine to target New Zealand’s specific strain of group B meningococcal, and in March signed an agreement with Californian-based Chiron Corporation.

“Our short-term aim is to assess a New Zealand specific vaccine suitable for an immunisation campaign. Our long-term aim is to rid New Zealand of this epidemic. To achieve this we aim to vaccinate at least 90 per cent of New Zealanders under 20.

“This is an ambitious and expensive exercise. We estimate the total cost will be $149 million over the next three years and up to $200 million over the next five years. Funds are required to develop a vaccine, run clinical trials, delivery the vaccine to the target population and encourage New Zealanders to be immunized against the disease.

“Clinical trials are planned to start at the end of this month. Following regulatory approval of the vaccine, a nationwide immunisation campaign will be undertaken.

“This government is committed to addressing this problem that has caused so much heartache for many New Zealand families,” Ms King said.

Ends

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