Mother of student who died from meningococcal B calls for free nationwide vaccinations

The mother of a Victoria University student who died from meningococcal B is calling on the Government to subsidise vaccinations across New Zealand.

On Monday, Health Minister Dr David Clark announced that from December children and teenagers in Northland would be vaccinated to deal with a dangerous meningococcal outbreak.

The three-week programme will include free vaccinations for children between nine months and four years of age, as well as teenagers. The vaccines will be distributed from clinics set up in some high schools and community centres across the region.

But Tarsha Boniface, whose daughter died from the disease, said free vaccinations should be made available nationwide.

"Surely there should be some sort of [subsidy] for everyone in New Zealand, not just in Northland. Just to help, it’s such a huge cost, but the cost we put on our children’s lives," she said.

Mr Clark said it was important the programme began soon.

"It is important that we begin this work as soon as possible to contain this deadly disease in Northland," he said.

But rolling out the vaccinations in December means doing so as the school year ends and students go away on holiday.

Ms Boniface said that further proves vaccinations should be available across the country.

"Who is to say all those Northland families aren’t travelling away at Christmas, and going to Wellington and spreading it elsewhere? It has to be something that is nationwide to ensure that everyone is protected".

She said parents also need to become educated about the disease.

"Had we known who the high risk categories were and what puts them at high risk then it would have registered a lot more with us," she said.

Meningitis Foundation director Andrea Brady said teenagers and children were particularly vulnerable.

"Parents that have got teenage kids, we urge you to go to community centres and to go to the schools to get the children vaccinated," said Ms Brady. "We just need to encourage as many people as possible to be aware of it".

Vaccines are being flown in from overseas, with the first batch of 10,000 doses - covering the A, C, W and Y strains - arriving in the country next week, with another 10,000 expected a few weeks later.

Mr Clark congratulated Pharmac and the Ministry of Health for sourcing 20,000 doses of the W vaccine, which is in short supply due to international demand.

The possibility of importing more doses as a contingency plan in case a wider programme is recommended by clinical experts is also being investigated.

Three people have died from the disease in Northland this year, while 29 have contracted the W strain across Aotearoa in 2018 – double the number of 2017.


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