04 April 2017

Parents of Year 11 and 12 students are being urged to check school bags this week for consent forms for a free meningococcal ACWY vaccine to protect their children against the rare but deadly disease.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the State Government’s $9 million NSW Meningococcal W Response Program was introduced due to an unprecedented outbreak of meningococcal W disease in Australia.

“The NSW Government has acted swiftly to protect the most vulnerable group of people – those in their late teens – from this rising threat,” Mr Hazzard said.

“I strongly encourage parents to take advantage of this very important opportunity and sign and return the consent forms as meningococcal disease can result in lifelong complications, or even death.”

Meningococcal W is now the most common strain of the disease in Australia, with cases in NSW virtually tripling from nine in 2015 to 26 in 2016. It also has triple the mortality rate (14 per cent) of other strains.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director, Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, said that the meningococcal ACWY vaccine, which protects against four of the strains of the disease, will be offered in Term 2.

“Teens are one of the groups most at risk of contracting the W strain. This is due to social behaviours that result in the disease being transmitted through close physical contact, such as frequent kissing and participation in social activities like going to nightclubs,” Dr Sheppeard said.

Since 2013, the NSW Government has committed $5.5 million towards the Save the Date vaccination campaign. NSW rates of childhood immunisation are above or at the Australian average, with 93.4 per cent fully vaccinated by the age of five.

For NSW data on all meningococcal cases, refer to Infectious diseases data.