Health minister David Clark has announced the launch of a targeted vaccination programme in Northland to control an outbreak of meningococcal disease.
“The advice from clinical experts is that MenW has reached outbreak levels in Northland and we should urgently launch an immunisation programme to prevent further spread of the disease.
“This MenW strain has a high mortality rate and tragically has killed three people Northland this year. So far 29 people have contracted MenW nationwide in 2018 (more than twice as many as in 2017), including seven in Northland.
“Following advice about the best use of available vaccine we will begin targeted vaccinations in Northland next month.
“The vaccination programme will target Northland residents who are aged 9 months to four years (inclusive), and those aged 13 to 19 years (inclusive).
“Research shows that vaccinating these two age groups is the best way to reduce the spread of meningococcal disease across the entire Northland community. This helps to protect everybody, even if they don’t qualify for the free vaccination.
“Northland District Health Board plans to start a three-week community vaccination programme on 5 December in selected high schools and community centres across Northland.
“Launching a vaccination programme now, when the school year is almost over and the holiday season is close, will be challenging for the DHB. However it is important that we begin this work as soon as possible to contain this deadly disease in Northland.
“There is strong international demand for the MenW vaccine, which is in short supply. Pharmac and the Ministry of Health have done well to source 20,000 doses covering four types of meningococcal disease, including A, C, W and Y. The first batch of 10,000 doses will arrive in New Zealand next week and the remainder a few weeks later.
“Pharmac and the Ministry of Health will continue to investigate the availability of further doses of the vaccine as a contingency, in case further roll-out of the programme is recommended,” Dr Clark says.