Parents of Year 11 and 12 students across the Sutherland Shire and St George region are being encouraged to sign their children up for a free meningococcal vaccination.
The vaccination is being offered this term and next term in 90 high schools across the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD). Students are being sent home with consent forms for the injection.
Year 11 and 12 students are eligible for the free vaccine as part of the NSW Government’s $9 million Meningococcal W Response Program. It was introduced by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard due to an unprecedented outbreak of meningococcal W disease in Australia.
In 2016, there were 10 cases of meningococcal disease among SESLHD residents, of which half were group W disease compared to zero group W cases in 2015.
SESLHD’s Public Health Unit is running the vaccination program in 90 high schools in the district.
Public Health Unit director Mark Ferson said the vaccine protects against four serogroups of meningococcal bacteria.
“I strongly encourage parents to take advantage of this very important opportunity and sign and return the consent forms, because meningococcal disease can result in lifelong complications, or even death,” Professor Ferson said.
“Teens are one of the groups most at risk of developing meningococcal disease. This is due to social behaviours that result in the disease being transmitted through close physical contact.
“Students who had the meningococcal C vaccine as young children should also have the current ACWY vaccine to cover them against the meningococcal serogroup W strain.”
The publicly-funded vaccine has now been made available by NSW Health to general practitioners for Year 11 and 12 students who have underlying medical problems and prefer to be vaccinated by their own doctors and those aged 17 or 18 who are no longer at school.