28/07/2021

South Australia's world-leading meningococcal B Immunisation Program will continue indefinitely after proving it’s been effective at preventing the illness in high-risk age groups.

It comes as a joint Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) and University of Adelaide study found the program has been key in a 60 percent reduction in cases among infants and a 73 percent drop in cases for adolescents.

WCH Senior Medical Practitioner and Professor in Vaccinology at the University of Adelaide, Professor Helen Marshall, said the study examined the vaccine’s uptake and effectiveness.

“Meningococcal B is a rare but serious illness which can cause meningitis and septicaemia, potentially leading to permanent disability or even death,” Professor Marshall said.

“It can affect all age groups but is most common in children under 5 years old and in young adults aged 15 to 24.

“Our research found the immunisation program has been incredibly effective at preventing the illness in these age groups, which is largely due to the willingness of the community to get vaccinated and protect their babies, children and adolescents from the disease.

“Overall, the results of the study are reassuring because they prove vaccines like this are having a profound protective effect on infants and young people. It shows the importance of evaluating immunisation programs once they have been introduced in population programs.”

The Meningococcal B Immunisation Program was first introduced for infants under four years of age in October 2018, before being rolled out four months later to include adolescents aged 15 to 20 years, in a world first.

The vaccine’s effectiveness was found to be 92 percent in infants and 100 percent in adolescents.

In the recent state budget, the landmark immunisation program received $3 million for 2021–22 and $5.3 million ongoing from 2022–23 to continue the program indefinitely.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said given the program’s success, it will now be ongoing.

“Vaccinations are a vital part in the fight against serious diseases, so it is incredible to see the rate of meningococcal B cases dropping so significantly since the program was introduced,” Minister Wade said.

“This result is a testament to South Australian parents and carers for their willingness to protect their children, and others, from this potentially deadly disease.

“This landmark vaccination program is saving lives and protecting lives.”

Free meningococcal B vaccinations are available for children at 6 weeks, 4 months, and 12 months of age, and for adolescents in Year 10.

Sourced from The University of Adelaide’s website: Life-saving Meningococcal B vaccination program continues indefinitely