7 Sep 2012

Call for free meningococcal-C vaccinations

8:46 pm on 7 September 2012

New Zealand should be routinely immunising children and young people for a particular strain of meningococcal disease, a Northland health official says.

Authorities have confirmed that the group C strain caused the sudden death of Wellington schoolgirl Amanda Crook-Barker.

The 12-year-old died on Monday evening after she began to show symptoms earlier in the day.

Northland's Medical Officer of Health Claire Mills says the same strain killed three people in three months in Northland last year, prompting an extensive free vaccination campaign for people under 20.

Dr Mills says meningococcal-C has been uncommon in New Zealand until recently, but it is more lethal than other strains with a fatality rate of 16%.

She says in countries such as Britain and Australia, where the strain is common, vaccination for meningococcal C is free and part of the routine schedule for babies and children.

Dr Mills says 35,000 Northland people aged under 20 were vaccinated for meningococcal-C after last year's outbreak and there has been just one case since in an unvaccinated baby.

Northland Health says it is relaunching its free vaccination campaign against meningococcal disease following a sharp rise in the number of reported cases nationally.

The vaccine is not free elsewhere in New Zealand. In Wellington, for example, it is available for $46 or $105 for a shot giving life-time immunity.