Meningococcal ACYW vaccine program to be expanded

The meningococcal quadrivalent (ACWY) vaccination program,  developed to control an outbreak of meningococcal W disease in the Aboriginal population of Central Australia and the western Katherine regions, is to be expanded to include all young Territorians aged one to 19 year old in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine.

The quadrivalent ACWY vaccine will be added to the Northern Territory (NT) Childhood Vaccination Schedule on 1 December 2017 for all infants throughout the Territory at 12 months of age, replacing the current meningococcal C vaccine.

“All cases to date of meningococcal W disease in the NT have been in Aboriginal people and in the initial roll out we have been focussing on the groups at highest risk of disease,” said the Centre of Disease Control Director Dr Vicki Krause.

“From tomorrow we are expanding the program to all children one to 19 years old in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine together with all those aged one to 19 years in the remote communities of the Katherine region.”

“It is important to stress that our efforts must continue in those groups most at risk; who are those children aged one to 19 years in remote communities in Central Australia and Katherine regions and urban Aboriginal children in Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek.  

There have been 29 reported cases of meningococcal W  in Central Australia, with the last case on 17 October. All cases have been in the Aboriginal population with the majority being aged between one and 10 years. Prioritising those most at risk of getting meningococcal W disease and working to stop the spread has been the aim of our outbreak response.

“The community-controlled Aboriginal health organisations and the NT Department of Health staff, along with those living in communities, have done a fantastic job in achieving high vaccine coverage rates in much of the high-risk population areas,” Dr Krause said. 

“These efforts have limited the outbreak, but we need to maintain our vigilance and continue our response and look to the next step. It is time now to vaccinate those in the lower risk group,” Dr Krause said.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but very serious disease. It is treatable with antibiotics but the infection can progress very quickly. It is important for people to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical advice early for either themselves or children in their care if they have any concerns.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, neck stiffness, an aversion to bright lights, a rash and joint pain. Those affected may also have vomiting and diarrhoea, be difficult to wake up and babies may refuse food and drink and have a high pitched cry.

“The meningococcal W bacteria continues to be carried by healthy people in Australia, in fact we know that the meningococcal bacteria are estimated to live in the nose and throat of about 10% of the population at any one time,” Dr Krause said.

“The meningococcal ACWY vaccine works to stop the carriage of the ACWY  meningococcus germs from those people who are carrying them  and also to protect  persons from  getting sick with meningococcal disease.

The vaccine will be available free from the following health services for all young Territorians aged one to 19 years in Alice Springs, Barkly and Katherine Regions:

  • Northern Territory Government primary health care and community health clinics in both urban and remote areas of Alice Springs, Barkly and Katherine regions.
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service clinics in urban and remote areas of Alice Springs, Barkly and Katherine regions.
  • General Practice clinics in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine (a consultation fee may apply)

School-based programs will commence mid-November in Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs for all students in year 7 to year 12. Parents are encouraged  to learn about the vaccination program and register their consent. It is important for consent forms to be returned to the school to ensure this program will be successful.

Details regarding the meningococcal ACWY vaccine availability:

Alice Springs

Community Health, Centre at Flynn Drive.

Telephone: 8951 6521 (business hours Monday to Friday)

The vaccination clinic will be available by appointment only:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8am – 4pm
Tuesday and Thursday 8am - 8pm
Saturday 9 - 2pm

Katherine

Community Health Centre, Government Centre, First Street.

Telephone: 8973 8570

The vaccination clinic will be available by appointment only:

Monday to Friday 8am to 4:30pm

Tennant Creek

Child and Family Health, Allied Health Corridor, Leichardt Street.

Telephone: 8962 4218

Appointments available:

Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm

Last updated: 31 October 2017