Skip to content

Calls for Tasmania to follow Qld in offering free MenB vaccine after state’s fourth case of the year

Vaccination

With meningococcal cases up 10 per cent across Australia, and a young Tasmanian woman in the state’s North coming close to death last month, there are calls to roll out a free state-based vaccination program for MenB.

With meningococcal cases up 10 per cent across Australia, and a young Tasmanian woman in the state’s North coming close to death with the bacterial infection last month, there are renewed calls to roll out a free state-based vaccination program.

Tasmanian Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch revealed on December 15, 2023 that the state’s fourth case of the year had been detected in the young female adult, who was hospitalised with meningococcal B in a critical but stable condition.

She has since been discharged, with all known contacts traced and managed.

Dr Veitch said there had been a reduction in meningococcal cases since the Commonwealth rolled out its free meningococcal ACWY vaccination program for teens in 2018.

The state typically now sees between two and four cases per annum.

Longford-raised chief executive of the WA-based Meningitis Centre, Karen Quick, said there existed an opportunity for Tasmania to eradicate meningococcal B by implementing a free state-based vaccination such as is about to occur in Queensland.

She has since been discharged, with all known contacts traced and managed.

Glucojel attracts more customers

Dr Veitch said there had been a reduction in meningococcal cases since the Commonwealth rolled out its free meningococcal ACWY vaccination program for teens in 2018.

The state typically now sees between two and four cases per annum.

Longford-raised chief executive of the WA-based Meningitis Centre, Karen Quick, said there existed an opportunity for Tasmania to eradicate meningococcal B by implementing a free state-based vaccination such as is about to occur in Queensland.

The Queensland Government has budgeted $30m per annum for its three-year trial, suggesting Tasmania’s program could cost about $3m per annum, with Tasmania’s population one-tenth of the sunshine state’s.

Ms Quick, who will travel to Tasmania in late February to lobby for the implementation of such a program, said the state government’s investment in immunity would pay for itself.

“One in 10 will die and one in four will end up with a permanent disability such as loss of limb, scarring, epilepsy, or cerebral palsy,” she said.

“Even if they survive with no side effects, it’s such a horrible thing to go through. The whole family is traumatised.”

Someone who gets a permanent disability from meningococcal B infection would “cost the government $10m on average,” Ms Quick said.

“We can stop it so easily,” she said.

Ms Quick said meningococcal cases nationwide were up approximately 10 per cent in 2023.

She cited the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic as a major culprit for the rise, with a large cohort of year 10 students missing their ACWY jab during this time and “never getting a catch up one”.

Ms Quick said Tasmanians ordered about 800 free meningococcal ‘signs and symptoms’ fridge magnets in the wake of the latest case, and urged parents – babies, teenagers and young adults are especially susceptible – to “trust your instincts” when symptoms are present.

They include a sudden onset of fever, headache, neck stiffness, joint pain, nausea and vomiting.

The infamous rash is often the last symptom that presents itself, Ms Quick said

“When you go to the hospital or GP, say the words: could it be meningococcal?” she said. “It’s a bacteria that camouflages itself. The doctor might think it’s the flu or a bit of gastro.

“Seed the thought into their head.”

In a statement provided to the Mercury on Wednesday, a spokesman said the state government would “continue to follow expert advice, including from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, to understand whether state-based funding of a vaccine may be cost-effective at a population level in the Tasmanian epidemiological context”.

Share this article:

Articles you might be interested in

Scroll To Top