Protecting Victorians From Meningococcal W While Turnbull Dithers

08 February 2017

The Andrews Labor Government is taking immediate action to protect Victorian kids and teenagers from the deadly Meningococcal W strain, while the Federal Liberal Government continues to shirk its responsibility and put people at risk.

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today announced the Labor Government will provide $7.1 million to deliver a one year free school-based vaccination program for Meningococcal W for 15 to 19 year olds – commencing in Term Two – until the Federal Government gets it act together and funds a national response.

This age group was chosen based on the recommendation of national immunisation experts as teenagers are at increased risk of meningococcal disease and more likely to spread the disease to others.

Meningococcal bacteria are passed from person to person by regular, close, prolonged household and intimate contact. In a small number of people, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause invasive meningococcal disease, which can develop very quickly and causes death in about five to 10 per cent of cases.

In recent years the prevalence of the W strain – one of the six main meningococcal strains – has increased significantly across Australia, with Victoria experiencing 48 cases in 2016, compared to 17 cases in 2015, four in 2014 and just one in 2013.

Cases of what were previously the most prevalent strain – Meningococcal C – declined significantly after the Federal Government included it in the National Immunisation Program in 2003.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government has failed to take action to address this concerning spike in Meningococcal W, meaning people in Victoria and across the country face significant out-of-pocket costs to receive the vaccine and protect themselves and their families from this potentially deadly disease.

Victoria is calling on Malcolm Turnbull to step up and put the health and well-being of Australians first and fund a national program to protect vulnerable and high-risk people from Meningococcal W.

Whether it’s at a federal level or a state level there is one thing that’s clear – the Liberals just don’t care about immunisation.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“This is a national responsibility and once again we are seeing Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals vacating the space when it comes to immunisation while we step in and cover the short-fall.”

“Whether it’s reinstating free whooping cough vaccines for new and expectant parents or ensuring we have a plan to protect against Meningococcal W, we will always continue to invest in immunisation to save lives.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Education James Merlino

“By providing free vaccinations in schools we can protect the kids most at risk from this deadly disease."

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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