Babies as young as two months old may now be given a new combination vaccine that protects against four strains of meningococcal disease.
The new meningococcal vaccine called MENVEO offers immunity for the meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y.
Last July, the Therapeutics Goods Administration approved the vaccine for use in infants from two months old.
The vaccine’s manufacturer, GSK, had to first prioritise at risk groups and adolescents, but has now increased its stocks to supply pharmacies and GP surgeries with additional doses for infants.
At present, the national immunisation program offers a free vaccine against meningococcal C for 12-month-olds, but the new combination vaccine will not be subsidised and the cost of the vaccine may differ depending on individual pharmacies and location.
Sydney University Professor Robert Booy, an infectious diseases expert, urged parents to immunise their babies under one-year-old since they are at greater risk, including children under five, with as many as one in 10 children dying from the disease, and roughly one in five who were left with long-term disabilities including brain damage, deafness and limb loss.
“Notifications of meningococcal disease usually peaks in late winter and early spring, so today’s announcement is timely and gives parents a TGA-approved combination ACWY vaccine option to help protect their babies from this potentially devastating condition,” he said.
While the overall incidence of invasive meningococcal disease in Australia has reduced since the C vaccine was added to the immunisation schedule, there was an at least 50 per cent rise in the number of meningococcal Y and W cases in the past three years. “Protection against multiple strains is important, as the most common strains can change over time,” Professor Booy added.
The new combination vaccine can also be used in adolescents and adults.