24 Nov 2011

Ministry strengthens meningococcal advice to teens

9:48 am on 24 November 2011

Thousands of young people preparing to live in university hostels and flats next year are being urged to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease at their own expense.

There have been 14 deaths from the disease so far this year and a coroner has recommended the Ministry of Health update its guidelines and advice about the option of vaccination.

Several vaccines are available from family doctors but are not publicly funded.

The vaccines cost GPs between $30.50 and $86.25, which includes GST but not all other charges such as delivery to the GP.

The ministry estimates the cost to patients, depending whether they get the vaccine from their doctor or student health, would be between $50 and $100.

The ministry's chief advisor of child and youth health, Pat Tuohy, says young people should seriously consider having the vaccine.

"This advice has been in the immunisation handbook for some time, but we are strengthening the advice on the basis of the recent outbreak in Northland and a cluster of cases around the country," he says.

Lance Gravatt, whose son Zachary Gravatt died from meningococcal C disease in 2009, says the public has a right to know about vaccines that are available.

He says he would have bought the vaccine had he known about it and its availability needs to be publicised.

The head of the Immunisation Advisory Centre at Auckland University, Nikki Turner, says a publicly funded meningococcal vaccination programme is needed but will need to be planned carefully.