Once again we risk our natural acquired immunity as we introduce another vaccine to young babies.
On February 2, the Australian government announced that the new meningococcal vaccine (Nimenrix) which covers A, C, W and Y strains (MenACWY) will be added to the National Immunization Program ahead of the next peak meningococcal season. This addition of yet another vaccine to Australia’s increasingly busy vaccination schedule reinforces the Australian government’s non-negotiable commitment to the vaccination of all Australian children.
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a very scary disease that can cause death within hours if not recognized and treated in time by antibiotic therapy. It is caused by a number of different strains of the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis most commonly by the serogroups A, B, C, W and Y.
There are two different forms of the disease: Meningitis which is inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, and Septicaemia, a serious bloodstream infection. Although it is a serious disease, it is rare. The number of cases of meningococcal disease in Australia in 2016 were 252. Of those who suffer invasive meningococcal disease up to one in 10 die and among those who survive 20% will have permanent disabilities which include loss of limbs, sight and hearing problems and severe brain damage. The mainstream media is renown for treating the fearful public with stories of toddlers struck down with the ‘deadly disease’ told by understandably emotional parents anxious to raise awareness and who urge the government to act and put the meningococcal vaccine on the immunization schedule.
The parents of a Tasmanian toddler who recently contracted the deadly meningococcal W disease are sickened their son could have been immunized but they did not realize a vaccination existed.
How is meningococcal disease spread?
The bacterium Neisseria meningitidis is spread through coughing, sneezing or close contact with infected people.
Who is at risk of this disease?
The highest incidence of meningococcal disease occurs in children less than 5 years and adolescents aged 15–19 years. Other risk factors include genetic factors, smoking, living in crowded conditions such as the military and prisons, a recent respiratory illness, alcohol use and underlying chronic medical conditions such as immune deficiency.
Symptoms include headache, rash, fever ,vomiting, stiff neck , extreme fatigue, convulsions and irritability.