The Queensland Government is encouraging more young Queenslanders to take advantage of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine, as new data reveal only around 64 per cent of Year 10 students received the jab through the School Immunisation Program last school year.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the Palaszczuk Government had funded a free meningococcal ACWY vaccine for adolescents and young adults since February 2017.
“To combat the rise of meningococcal, we introduced a free vaccine last year for Year 10 students and adolescents aged 15 to 19 years – the age group that has the highest rate of meningococcal infection,” Mr Miles said.
“The free program was introduced to address rising rates of meningococcal W disease and to protect young people and the community by decreasing the proportion of people carrying the bacteria.
“The vaccine is the best form of protection against the disease, but unfortunately some young people are missing out.
“In some cases school kids are missing out on the vaccine because the consent form for the vaccination hasn’t been returned to school.
“I urge parents of students in Year 10 in 2019 to keep an eye out for the consent form next year.”
Queensland’s Immunisation Program, Medical Director, Dr Alun Richards said while a number of students were getting vaccinated through their GPs or later on during their schooling, not all adolescents were receiving a dose.
“Young adults have higher carriage rates of the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease, which is why they are a priority group for vaccination,” Dr Richards said.
“For parents of students who have missed their meningococcal vaccination at school, I urge them to arrange access to this free vaccine with their family GP or local immunisation provider.”
Dr Richards said that while meningococcal disease was rare, it could also be deadly.
“Meningococcal disease is a very serious infection that can cause severe scarring, loss of limbs, brain damage and death. People with meningococcal disease can become extremely unwell very quickly,” he said.
“Last year we saw a spike in meningococcal cases in Queensland with 69 people contracting the disease. So far this year, 50 people have been diagnosed.
“Symptoms of meningococcal disease can include vomiting, fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, joint pain or a rash of red-purple spots or bruises.
“Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.”
More information on meningococcal disease is available on the Queensland Health website or by calling 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). Anyone with concerns should contact their GP.