Thousands of families have been queuing up at vaccination stations in Northland as a mass immunisation programme against meningococcal W gets underway.
The three-week programme was announced last week in response to a local outbreak of the MenW strain, which has killed three people in Northland this year. As of late November, a total of 29 people had contracted the W strain of the bacterial infection nationwide, seven of whom were in Northland.
There have been concerns that there is a global shortage of the MenW vaccine, but Northland DHB spokesperson Roger Tuck – a retired paediatrician – said there was enough of the vaccine to cover everyone eligible in the region: children aged 9 months to 5 years and teenagers from 13 to 19. Drug-buying agency PHARMAC said it had obtained an additional 5000 doses of the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine, bringing the total stock to 25,650 doses.
Writing on Sciblogs, the Immunisation Advisory Centre’s Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said historically deaths in New Zealand were caused by Group B meningococcal and “we need to take W very seriously”.
“As there has been a sudden unexpected upsurge in Meningococcal W in many countries (including UK, Australia and Africa) there has been a demand for more W-containing vaccine. In NZ we normally only bring in enough for special high risk groups and the private market as we do not have this vaccine on our routine immunisation schedule,” she wrote.
The campaign’s rollout was covered by local media, including:
Newshub: Northland meningococcal outbreak: Ministry of Health missed 7 ‘red flags’
RNZ: Hundreds line up in rain for meningococcal vaccinations
NZ Herald: Thousands line up on first day of Northland MenW vaccine
RNZ: DHB reassures parents over meningococcal vaccine
TVNZ: Hundreds line up in rain for meningococcal vaccinations in Northland