Pressure mounts on the government after a spate of cases in South Australia, including the death of a toddler
SA Health Minister Jack Snelling has urged Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley to put the meningococcal B-strain vaccine on the National Immunisation Program after the recent death of Adelaide toddler Charlie Joshua Mason.
Sixteen-month-old Charlie passed away earlier this month from meningococcal disease in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide.
Three additional people were hospitalised in the state this week, confirms SA Health — two men aged 18 and 29 who contracted the B-strain and a 71-year-old woman who was diagnosed with the rare W-strain.
While the vaccine for the C-strain of meningococcal is included on the National Immunisation Program, the B-strain vaccine is only available on the private market with an out-of-pocket cost of $500.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has twice rejected an application for the meningococcal B vaccine to be added to PBS.
“This is an insidious disease and it is simply not fair that only those who can afford to vaccinate are protected against it,” says Minister Snelling.
“People, children in particular, shouldn’t be denied this vaccine because of their socio-economic status. The Federal Government needs to urgently add this lifesaving vaccine to the PBS.
“By preventing this disease from spreading we will not only prevent unnecessary deaths, but also unnecessary disability,” he says.
Meningococcal Australia says that meningococcal B is the most common strain in Australia today, but the vaccine cost is prohibitive for many families.
“In the UK, since they implemented the vaccine as part of the routine vaccination schedule in September of last year, it has already halved the amount of B-strain cases in infants in one year,” Meningococcal Australia director Eliza Ault-Connell told The Advertiser.
“The long-term cost of this disease can include lifetime care resulting from amputations, kidney function, vision, hearing loss, extensive skin grafting as well as physiological effects.”