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Tragic Death Highlights Need for Vaccine

PRESS RELEASE (for immediate release)

Saturday, February 17

Tragic Death Highlights Need for Vaccine

The tragic death of Auckland woman Martina Matic-Kennar highlights the need for New Zealand to make a life-saving vaccine available to all families, says Meningitis Trust general manager Fiona Colbert.

Mrs Matic-Kennar, 35, died of pneumococcal meningitis -- a common strain of meningitis for which a highly effective vaccine is now available to fight. She was 19 weeks pregnant when she died, leaving behind a distraught husband and 14-month-old son.

The Meningitis Trust together with health professionals have been begging the government to make Prevenar available to everyone, and not just those who can afford it. Last year the trust campaigned hard for the vaccine to be approved for funding by the ITWG (Immunisation Technical Working Group) but the wait goes on.

Funding will now be determined in the May 17 Budget.

Overseas studies have shown the vaccine to be 97 per cent effective. It is Government-funded in countries including Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States.

Diana Lennon, professor of child and youth health at the University of Auckland, said Prevenar had shown amazing results in other countries. “Our children’s health should be a priority; it is frustrating that we have to wait,” says professor Lennon.

Meningitis Trust general manager Fiona Colbert says it hurts when you have senseless deaths like Martina's when such an effective vaccine is available.

"This is a tragic waste of life. We as New Zealanders must do something about it to ensure further deaths do not occur."

In New Zealand, 500 people are struck down with pnuemococcal disease every year. It mainly effects the young and but, with cases like Martina's, it can be indiscriminate.

Of the victims who survive, a quarter are left with serious disabilities including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and deafness.

"The trust was set up to help families and survivors get through," says Fiona. "Our hearts go out to Martina's family. We are here for them, for any support and information they may need."

* The work of the trust will be highlighted around the country starting next week with Toddle Waddle, a series of sponsored walks. Over 400 events will raise vital funds for the trust at the same time as raising awareness of meningitis. The fundraiser runs from 23rd February -18th March 2007.

Those who can't make, can also help support the trust. Phone the 0900 MONTY [66689] line now for $20 donations….


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