'Vaccinations should be free' - Northland community fundraising for meningococcal W vaccine

A Northland woman is calling for funded meningococcal vaccinations for all children after she had to turn to fundraising for her community's kids.

Shona Whitehead is leading the charge to vaccinate five to 12 year olds in Northland, who cannot access free vaccinations for meningococcal W, a particularly virulent strain of the disease.

Children aged 0-5 and teenagers get the vaccination free. Ms Whitehead told The AM Show some families have to shell out between $130 and $170 to get their kids vaccinated.

"I know a lot of families struggle, especially when they have multiple children."

She said the vaccination should be fully funded, especially considering the community is still reeling from the loss of a seven-year-old in 2018.

"Vaccinations should be free to all children, I've never heard of vaccinations costing before in my lifetime, but it's an important thing for our community because we did lose a child last year."

Whitehead has raised around $18,000 for the Northland meningococcal W vaccinations, but she's aiming to hit $20,000. The group is trying to get 200 children vaccinated.

"It's been a journey, it's been so hard in our time frame to reach our goal but it's amazing that we've been able to reach it in such a short span of time."

The meningococcal W strain is considered to have a high mortality rate. New Zealand has seen a significant increase in the strain since mid-2017.

It killed three people in Northland during an outbreak in 2018 and extra supplies of the vaccine were rushed to the region last year for an urgent vaccination programme.

Meningococcal B is still the most common in New Zealand and an epidemic of the strain broke out in young children between 1991 and 2007.

No meningococcal vaccination protects against every strain of the disease. A previous immunisation programme in New Zealand in the mid-2000s focussed on strain B.

Updates on Whitehead's progress can be found on the Facebook page, Awhinatia nga Tamariki.