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UPDATED- Additional Vaccination Information

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 - 9:24am

The Australian Government has made some significant changes to the recommendations and funding of childhood immunisations and certain vaccines, over the last few months. The following information is current as at 1 July 2018.

Although not all of the following vaccinations are funded through the National Immunisation Program (NIP) in Australia, they are recommended, safe and effective. Vaccines used in Australia must pass strict safety testing before being approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). In addition, the TGA monitors the safety of vaccines once they are in use.

Some private health companies will provide a rebate as part of 'extras' cover for additional vaccinations if they are not funded through the NIP.

Meningococcal Disease
Invasive meningococcal disease is a rare but severe infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. There are 13 serogroups with meningococcal disease most commonly caused by serogroups A, B, C, W and Y.

It is a rare but serious infection that can cause lifelong disability in up to 20% of cases and death in 5-10% of cases. Around 10% of healthy individuals carry the meningococcal bacteria in their nose and throat. Meningococcal bacteria is spread through secretions of the nose and throat. The bacteria cannot survive outside the body and does not spread easily from shared drinks or food.

The highest incidence of meningococcal disease is in children aged <2 years and adolescents aged 15–19 years.

While it is natural for the rates of meningococcal disease to fluctuate over time, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases in Australia since 2014. Meningococcal B disease has been dominant until recently, but has been naturally declining in most states and territories, even in the absence of widespread vaccination against this serogroup. The incidence of meningococcal W disease has increased since 2013. In 2017, serogroups B and W caused similar numbers of meningococcal disease cases in Australia

There are three types of meningococcal vaccines are available in Australia.

Meningococcal ACWY; Brand names Menactra®, Menveo®, Nimenrix®

Meningococcal B; Brand names Bexsero®, Trumenba®

Meningococcal C; Brand names NeisVac-C®, Menitorix® (also contains booster for Haemophilus influenzae type b)-this was the funded vaccine on the NIP from July 2013-2018 for those aged 12 months. This has now been replaced with a Meningococcal ACWY vaccine.

There is no single vaccine that offers protection against all meningococcal serogroups.

Meningococcal ACWY
The brand and dosing, eligibility and funding of this vaccine are all determined according to age and relevant health-related issues of individuals. Your GP is responsible for adhering to strict and complex guidelines provided to them by the government, and will immunise you and/your children accordingly. Given the complexity around these vaccinations, it is best to discuss the guidelines with your GP who will be able to provide tailored advice relevant to you or your child's meningococcal vaccination.

In general, the brand and number of doses required for this vaccine depends on the age the vaccine course commenced. From 12 months of age it is most likely that only 1 dose of vaccine is required.

In Tasmania, an urgent public health response has been instigated to provide the meningococcal ACWY vaccine to:

  • All those aged 6 weeks to 21 years (in particular those born after 1 August 1997)

This program will involve eligible Tasmanians receiving the ACWY vaccine from either a general practitioner, a pharmacist (for children aged 10 years and over), special public clinics, and some schools. Outside this age range the vaccines are available on private prescription and ranges from $60-$100 per dose depending on your GP's prescription of specific vaccine required.

Side effects with these vaccines are mostly mild and don’t last long. The most common side effects are fever, headache, dizziness and redness at the injection site. Serious side effects are very rare.

Meningococcal B – one brand: BEXSERO

Bexsero is safe and effective, but is more likely to cause side effects than the routine childhood immunisations. The most common side effect is a high fever in infants and young children. For this reason, we recommend that paracetamol is given prior to Bexsero, and continued every 6 hours for the first day. If Bexsero is given at the same time as other immunisations, the fever is more likely to occur. For this reason parents often choose to give it on a separate day.

Other common adverse events include tenderness, swelling, redness at injection site or rarely a persistent lump at the injection site, irritability, sleepiness, change in eating habits, unusual crying, rash, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Influenza (flu):

Influenza immunisation is also recommended by the Australian Government for all children, and is now funded under the NIP for children aged 6 months to under the age of 5.

If under 9 years of age and receiving the influenza vaccination for the first time, children will need to have 2 doses spaced at least 1 month apart.
If your child is over the age of 5, the influenza vaccine is not funded and costs $25.

NB: The Influenza vaccine is not live and therefore cannot give recipients the flu.

Post-vaccination symptoms may mimic influenza infection. However, none of the influenza vaccines currently available in Australia contain live influenza viruses, so they cannot cause influenza.Common side effects include fever, malaise and muscle pain although these are usually short-lived.

Varicella (chicken pox):

The single chicken pox (Varicella) immunisation given at 18 months through the Government funded schedule gives your child 80-85% protection against chicken pox. An additional immunisation (not funded) increases their protection to around 98%. The second dose is available for purchase privately, and can be given at the same time as most other immunisations (eg. whooping cough, influenza). The cost is approximately $60. The additional Varicella vaccination can be given from 12 months of age onwards.

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If you are interested in finding out more about the vaccinations listed above, please make an appointment by calling us on 62821333