Remote WA free meningococcal vaccine

In October 2017, the Department of Health announced it would provide vaccinations against meningococcal disease to people living in certain remote Aboriginal communities, in response to an outbreak of meningococcal disease serogroup W (MenW) in central Australia.

The Central Australia outbreak has affected Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory (NT), South Australia (SA) and Queensland (QLD). MenW vaccination programs have commenced in certain areas of the NT, SA and QLD already and in October the Department of Health announced a vaccination program for people living in specific WA communities with close links to the affected communities in NT and SA to protect them from meningococcal disease.

Since October, there have been two cases of MenW in Aboriginal children in the Goldfields region, leading to an extension of the vaccination program to vulnerable people in remote communities and towns across the Goldfields region and two towns in the Midwest.

Communicable Disease Control Director, Dr Paul Armstrong said the free vaccination program aimed to provide people in those towns and remote communities with close links to locations affected by the central Australian outbreak with direct protection against four types of meningococcal bacteria – A, C, W and Y. The program will also help prevent further spread of the strains causing disease by decreasing the numbers of people who harmlessly carry the bacteria in the back of their throats.

“This is a targeted public health initiative formed in response to public health concerns about an increased risk of disease in these communities,” he said.

Dr Armstrong said that it was important to ensure the risk to vulnerable communities was minimised.

“This State-funded program will target people at higher risk of MenW infection in those communities that have strong cultural links with the NT – including certain towns and remote Aboriginal Communities in the Goldfields, Kimberley, Midwest and Pilbara regions,” he said.

The vaccinations will be delivered by WA Country Health Services and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

While invasive meningococcal disease is rare, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical attention urgently if they occur.

Symptoms may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains. Sometimes – but not always - these symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises. Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (blank staring, floppiness, inactivity, hard to wake, or poor feeding) and rash are important signs.

Read the frequently asked questions (PDF 247KB) on the vaccination program and find out more about meningococcal disease on the HealthyWA website (external site).

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