Spike in Meningococcal B as people wait for government to fund vaccine

By VICTORIA EASTOE

Health industry professionals fear the Tasmanian Government won’t fund vaccinations against the devastating Meningococcal Strain B until there is a significant spike in cases. 

Despite the growing concern from parents across the state and the recent rise in Meningococcal B cases in the past 3½ months, vaccinations must still be obtained privately.

Vaccinations for the A, C, W and Y strains are available free through a government program. 

Launceston General Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr Jennifer O’Hern stressed the importance of obtaining meningococcal vaccinations, particularly for adolescents and young children.

“I recommend everyone to give young kids and adolescents the vaccine,” Dr O’Hern said.

Dr O’Hern strongly urges the Government to follow in the footsteps of the South Australian Government, which from 2019 will be providing students in Year 10 with free Meningococcal B vaccines, and add the vaccine to their funded list.

Governments subsidise vaccination for some strains of meningococcal.

Currently in Tasmania Meningococcal B vaccines are only available through private means and both the initial and eight-week follow-up dosage costs more than  $115 each.”

Dr O’Hern said not everyone could afford this. “It’s unfair to only offer that protection to those who can afford it,” she said.

Long serving Launceston authorised immuniser Tanya Panitzki said the disease could have devastating effects. 

“No adolescent wants to go through disability for a vaccine preventable disease … you’re crazy not to take the opportunity to receive the vaccine,” she said.

Ms Pantizki said she was frustrated by the lack of funding for the B strain vaccination.

“There are limitations with funds and unfortunately at this point in time … until there is a spike in cases and how big that spikes got to be is not for me to decide. It’s not something that will yet be funded,” she said. 

“I think in Australia we are spoilt at routinely not paying for vaccines I think that’s the issue at the moment.’

Since July of 2018, strain B has been the most dominant strain of meningococcal after  strain W, according to the Tasmanian Government’s Meningococcal Frequently Asked Questions.

Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson did not respond to a request for comment.