Meningococcal B kills woman in under a day

A grieving mother is calling on the Australian government to provide a free meningococcal B vaccine after her daughter suddenly died last September.

Queenslander Kirsten McGinty said her daughter Zoe went to the gym and ate protein pancakes before falling ill with symptoms similar to gastro.

The 20-year-old's condition worsened that evening, and she held her hand out to her mother, desperate for her to stay by her side.

She had no rash or fever, yet died a few hours later at around 2am.

Zoe McGinty is now asking the government to fund vaccines for all strains of the illness.

Meningococcal B cases have doubled in Australia over the past five years, but the AU$400 (NZ$440) vaccine isn't on the standard immunisation schedule.

The government must await recommendation from the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee before it can add the vaccine to the schedule.

The committee has halted the vaccine being added to the schedule three times because it hasn't run a trial.

Currently, all Australian babies are entitled to free vaccines for strains A, C, W and Y, though the South Australian government is set to provide the B strain vaccine for free for babies from October.

Some are asking for the Queensland government to do the same, but the health department said it would prefer a nationally consistent policy.

Between 2004 and 2006 New Zealand offered free meningococcal B vaccines to anyone under the age of 20. Routine immunisation for babies and preschoolers continued until June 2008. The last phase of this programme, immunisation for people with a high medical risk, ended in March 2011.


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