Free jab for teens boosts fight against deadly disease
FROM today (April 1), all Australians teens aged 14-19 will be eligible for free vaccination against four of the deadly strains of meningococcal disease.
Under a $52 million federally funded program, more than one million teens will receive the quad-vaccine that targets meningococcal A, C, W and Y and costs other Australians $75-$100.
However, the jab to protect against the most common strain, B, remains unfunded federally and in Queensland.
The ACWY program will run over four years through schools, with a GP-based catch-up system for anyone in that age group who didn't receive the jab.
Brisbane mother Kirsten McGinty, with the support of The Courier-Mail, has been lobbying federal and state governments to ramp up their immunisation commitments after her daughter Zoe died from the W strain in 2017.
Zoe was an otherwise healthy 20-year-old university student who complained to her mother around 10am one Saturday that she felt unwell and was going to lie down.
Within 16 hours, she was dead.
Meningococcal is an infection that occurs when bacteria, typically transferred through kissing, coughing or sneezing, invades the body, causing organs to shut down.
Zoe had no telltale rash of red and purple blotches and Ms McGinty, as any parent might, assumed her daughter's vomiting and diarrhoea was due to a generic stomach bug.
The addition of the quad vaccine to the national immunisation schedule compliments the free ACWY jab for infants that began in July last year.
By law, the Federal Government cannot list a new vaccine without a positive recommendation from the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).
It is understood that the PBAC is yet to be convinced of the effectiveness of the B vaccine, Bexsero, as part of a population-wide program.
State governments, however, have the power to act independently, with South Australia and Tasmania funding their own targeted programs to protect against B.
The Queensland Government continues to argue that funding B is a federal responsibility.
There have been 10 recorded cases of meningococcal in this state so far this year - 7 cases of B, two of Y and 1 of W.