MENINGOCOCCAL B STRAIN VACCINATION

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:15): My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on the progress of the meningococcal B vaccination program?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:15): I thank the honourable member for his question. Last year, the Marshall Liberal government announced a free meningococcal B vaccination program for children and young adults, the first of its kind not just in Australia but, in relation to young adults, the first in the world.

While a meningococcal C vaccination program has been in place in all Australian jurisdictions since 2003 under the National Immunisation Program, and a meningococcal ACWY vaccine has just been added for one year olds and teenagers, vaccination against meningococcal B has not previously been included in any government vaccination program.

In the absence of this vaccine, our state has seen 257 cases of meningococcal B in South Australians aged under 21 between 2000 and 2019, with 27 cases last year. Young adults and babies under four made up 46 per cent of these cases, while 40 per cent were adolescents aged 15 to 20. Tragically, they also include the deaths of 10 young people.

In response to these facts, the Marshall Liberal government commissioned a group of clinicians and immunisation experts to develop options for a meningococcal B vaccination program. Based on that expert report, the government established a program. Infants received their first vaccinations last year and, in a world-first vaccination program, the first adolescents began receiving their vaccinations less than two weeks ago, as the government fully delivers on this groundbreaking program.

The program, as I said, targets the two most at-risk groups, and it is estimated that it will prevent 12 cases of meningococcal B every year. The ongoing program will target infants and students in year 10, ensuring our at-risk children and young adults are included. The immunisation program will include a catch-up program for children aged 12 months to 4 years, as well as year 11 students and young adults aged 17 to 21. The catch-up program will run until the end of this year.

I encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated. For adolescents in years 10 and 11, vaccinations will be available through the School Immunisation Program. For other eligible age groups, parents and young adults are encouraged to talk to their GP or immunisation provider.