The Victorian Government has launched a new social media campaign to promote its free meningococcal vaccination program to protect teenage Victorian's against the deadly disease.
Late winter and early spring are the peak seasons for meningococcal disease and one in 10 cases are fatal, with death occurring within a matter of hours of diagnosis. Of those who survive meningococcal, two in every 10 people are permanently disabled often losing fingers, toes or limbs1.
The new vaccination program was launched following the release of statistics which revealed a sharp rise in the number of meningococcal cases across Victoria compared with 10 years ago. In 2017, there have been more than 45 cases of meningococcal across the State and further cases expected over the coming months2.
The majority of these cases are accounted for by increasing numbers of the previously rare 'W' strain of meningococcal disease.
Young people aged 15 to 19 are at greater risk, as one in five carry the bacteria which causes the deadly disease which they can easily pass to other family members and friends. The best way to protect young people and the whole community is through the free and safe vaccination on offer.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy
"Immunisations save lives. Parents - if you haven't seen it already - look out for the immunisation consent form coming home from your child's high school or make an appointment with your local GP to ensure your child and your family is protected."
Quotes attributable to Deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton:
"We have seen a significant rise in meningococcal cases over the last 12 months with new strains of the disease causing serious illness and deaths across Victoria.
The meningococcal vaccine protects against the now-prevalent W strain of the disease as well as other common and increasing strains.
We have made it free to all 15 to 19 year olds because of the serious nature of the disease. Our hope is that by protecting those most likely to spread the disease, we can protect the rest of the community as well."
Quotes attributable to Eliza Ault Connell, who contracted the disease at the age of 16 and is now Director of Meningococcal Australia:
"We see time and again how families are torn apart when a loved one dies from meningococcal disease or the devastating impact it has on survivors, such as myself. This vaccination gives other parents and families the opportunity to protect their loved ones against this disease and at Meningococcal Australia we fully endorse it."
The vaccine is safe, effective and free until 31 December 2017 at scheduled school vaccination days, council immunisation sessions or from the GP.
For more information about local immunisation initiatives go to local council websites.
For health advice call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24, or call 000 in an emergency.
- Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease), Dr Brett Sutton - Dr Sutton is a former Emergency Department doctor and now Public Health specialist. He oversees the Immunisation Unit as well as the Communicable Disease Surveillance and Control teams. While working in Emergency Departments he witnessed the devastating effects of meningococcal disease and is committed to help turn around the rising number of cases in Victoria.
- Mike Rolls - Mike contracted meningococcal as a 19 year old (he is now 33 years old). He attended Sandringham College and was away on a football trip when he displayed early symptoms. As a result of the disease, Mike had both legs and some fingers amputated.
- Eliza Ault Connell - Eliza is a former Paralympian and the Director of Meningococcal Australia. She is an advocate of the meningococcal vaccination having contracted meningococcal as a 16 year old resulting in both legs and fingers being amputated.
1 World Health Organisation , Updated November 2015.
2 Public Health Event Surveillance System (PHESS) on 31 July 2017. Communicable Diseases Epidemiology and Surveillance. Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria. Available from health.vic's .
Reviewed 21 August 2017