Expert Advice

South Australia introduces free meningococcal B vaccinations

It's the first state in the country to introduce a program for children and young adults to prevent the disease.

By Alex Lilly

South Australia is the first state in the country to introduce free meningococcal B vaccinations for babies and young people.

From October 1, the State Government announced that babies aged between six weeks and one year, and children under the age of four will be able to access the program and from 2019, students in years 10 and 11, as well as young people aged from 17 to 20 years will be able to receive the vaccine at no cost.

According to the ABC, South Australia has the worst meningococcal B rates in the country, and the scheme is estimated to prevent around 12 cases of the disease each year, and save one life every two years.

SA Health's chief public health officer Paddy Phillips says, "We know that meningococcal B disease occurs more frequently in infants and children up to four years of age, and young adults aged between 15 to 20 years of age," Professor Phillips said.

"There have been 372 cases of meningococcal B disease in South Australia since 2000, which sadly includes 14 deaths, and of those cases more than 60 per cent were in people aged under 21.

According to Meningococcal Australia, meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not recognised and treated in time.

In Australia there are 5 main strains of the disease, all of which now have vaccinations available from your doctor.

The meningococcal bacteria are spread through droplets from the nose or throat through sneezing or coughing.

Figures show that between 2000 and 2002, 522 children under the age of four were admitted to hospital with meningococcal disease. It's treated with antibiotics but even with urgent attention, about 10 per cent of those with the illness die. Others can be left with a permanent brain injury and deafness.