Health

New, improved meningococcal vaccine added to National Immunisation Program

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A new vaccine to cover more strains of meningococcal will be added to the National Immunisation Program.

Australian children will be able to access a wider meningococcal vaccine with protection against more strains added to the National Immunisation Program.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Friday announced the new vaccine would cover against A, C, W and Y strains of the disease.

Currently, children are vaccinated against meningococcal C for free at 12 months, with protection against strain B available at a cost.

The new vaccine would be available ahead of the next peak season, expected to be in the second half of the year.

The addition to the federally funded program follows a rise in meningococcal related deaths, with 28 in 2017, up from 11 deaths in 2016 and 12 deaths in 2015.

There were 382 meningococcal cases reported nationally last year.

Mr Hunt said the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee would also consider the listing of the new vaccine for adolescents next month.

"This is about saving lives, it's about protecting lives," he told reporters.

Meningococcal is a rare infection that occurs when bacteria from the throat or nose invades the body.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said there was an increased number of cases of the Y and W strains in the past few years.

"The W strain is the one that's caused most of the concern with cases increasing both last year and the previous year," he said.

"This is a great development and I know one that many people have been keenly awaiting."

Source AAP - SBS

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