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Meningitis Foundation Says Change To Vaccine For Pneumococcal Disease Comes Too Late For Some

Published: Mon 5 Dec 2022 01:59 PM
The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand has welcomed the re-introduction of a more comprehensive vaccination programme for invasive pneumococcal disease that began this month, but says that it has unfortunately come too late for some.
From 1 December 2022, Pharmac will revert to three doses of the PCV13 vaccination to replace the current PCV10 pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and protect New Zealanders from the 19A serotype of the disease.
A decision was made in 2016 to remove access to PCV13 in preference for the PCV10 conjugate vaccine. A decision that has cost lives.
Figures released by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research for October 2022 show there were 57 cases (56 confirmed and 1 under investigation) of invasive pneumococcal disease notified during the month, more than triple the 18 cases for the same month in 2021. The figures bring the annual total to 31 October to 533 cases.
Three deaths were also reported in October, one in a case aged under 5 years, and two aged 65 years and over.
There were five cases of serotype 19A – which is not covered by the PCV10 vaccine that is being replaced – in children aged under 5 years; all were age appropriately vaccinated with PCV10.
The Meningitis Foundation Chair Gerard Rushton says access should never have changed in the first place, and raises wider questions around vaccine decisions, and the importance of raising public awareness of the importance of vaccines.
In the year to 31 October, there have also been 60 cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported, up on the same period for both 2020 and 2021. These figures include three deaths, two in children aged under five years, and one in a youth aged 15–19 years old. A total of 45% of the cases were in Māori and Pasifika children aged under five years.
Of the cases in which a group type was identified, 81% were group B meningococcal disease. The meningococcal B vaccine is only available to New Zealanders on the private market, at a significant cost, which makes it inaccessible for many.
Pharmac is currently considering widening access to the meningococcal B vaccine for children up to 12 months of age and a select group of 13- to 25-year-olds in close-living situations – such as those in their first year of halls of residence or boarding school accommodation, prison or military barracks.
The Meningitis Foundation is calling for Pharmac to go further and faster.
In order to adequately protect New Zealanders from the devastating effects of meningococcal disease, the Meningitis Foundation is calling for Pharmac to make both the meningococcal ACWY vaccine and the meningococcal B vaccine free for ALL infants and young people.
Gerard Rushton says a decision by Pharmac should be made without delay, to avoid any further tragic loss of life.
“Deaths from pneumococcal and meningococcal disease are avoidable as vaccines exist. It’s about getting the vaccines into the arms of the people who need them the most, at the appropriate time.
“We call on the Government, and Pharmac, to prioritise the introduction of both the meningococcal ACWY and B vaccines for infants, and for all 16-year-olds before they leave school,” he says.

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