Protecting teens from meningococcal disease

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A free meningococcal vaccine directed at higher-risk teenagers is available through schools and vaccination clinics. File picture

YANCHEP and Gingin teenagers from 15 to 19-years-old are encouraged to get the free meningococcal ACWY vaccine to help protect them and others against the serious disease.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the three-year vaccination program would target teenagers who were most at risk of developing meningococcal disease and transmitting it to others, including young children, and would be delivered in three phases.

Mr Cook said phase one started in Term 2 in some secondary schools and all Aboriginal medical services for Year 10-12 students.

Phase two starts in Term 3 across WA for Year 10-12 students and university students at on-campus medical centres.

Phase three starts in Term 4 with GP surgery vaccination (subject to vaccine availability) for Year 10-12 students who missed their school vaccination in Terms 2 or 3 and teenagers aged 15 to 19 years old who are not at school or university.

Students enrolled in a secondary school will receive consent forms prior to their school-scheduled immunisation day.

People turning 20 before early October this year should contact the Central Immunisation Clinic (metropolitan) on 9321 1312 or their Population Health Unit (country) before their birthday to ask how they can receive their free vaccine.

In 2018 and 2019, the program will target incoming Year 10 students only.

Mr Cook said while meningococcal disease was rare, the number of cases involving the W strain had increased in recent years.

Meanwhile, new Department of Health data has shown the uptake of the flu vaccine has declined, despite the risk of influenza remaining high.

Mr Cook said more than 1500 Western Australians were hospitalised due to flu last year.

A free influenza vaccine is available through immunisation providers including GP clinics, community health clinics or Aboriginal medical services for eligible, at-risk groups including young children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pregnant women, people aged 65 years and above and those with chronic medical conditions.

People not eligible for the free vaccine can get it through their GP or at a participating chemist for a small cost.