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The Meningitis Foundation Response To The Health Committee’s Report On The Meningitis Foundation’s Petition

On Thursday 29 June 2023, the Health committee of New Zealand Parliament released its report on The Meningitis Foundation’s petition, which urges the New Zealand Government to expand access to meningococcal vaccines and provide FREE vaccine for all preventable forms of meningococcal disease to ALL students in Year 11 (or at 16 years of age) before they leave school to work, study, or pursue other activities.

The petition was presented to Parliament on 31 March 2022, and was subsequently passed to the Health select committee for assessment. The Health committee assessed the petition, spoke with us and numerous stakeholders in detail to form an opinion and develop their recommendations to Parliament.

The Health committee’s ultimate recommendation was that “the House [of Representatives] take note of its report” – essentially, this means that they consider that it is a document that has importance to all Members of Parliament. In addition to this, it has urged government agencies to prioritise better public health campaigns to improve access to the vaccine.

In addition to this recommendation, the Health committee also highlighted its interest in research showing the Meningitis B vaccine could offer cross-protection against gonorrhoea, and encourage PHARMAC to take this into account as a factor for consideration when assessing the costs and savings of the vaccine.

The Meningitis Foundation’s petition also asked for the establishment of a comprehensive awareness and education program for meningococcal disease. This was recognised by the Health committee, who urged Te Whatu Ora to prioritise a better public health campaign and to investigate the introduction of prompts in practice management systems for GPs about the availability of meningococcal vaccines for eligible people.

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It is encouraging that Te Whatu Ora agrees with The Meningitis Foundation that the threat of meningococcal disease is of great concern, and supports widened and equitable access to meningococcal vaccines. This extends to support for earlier protection through vaccination, prioritisation for the parts of our community who are disproportionately affected – Māori and Pasifika, and the development of a catch-up programme for all young people aged 13-25 in close living situations.

The release of the report provides a strong basis on which to reach out to ministers and politicians to reinforce our goals and our concerns around access to vaccines, awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis, and the need for effective aftercare for those affected by meningitis.

There is still plenty of work to do, and the release of the Health committee’s report reinforces our path, and our vision of a world without meningitis.

You can read the Health committee’s full report here.

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