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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3740 ..


resolution 5A, table a schedule of statutory appointments for the period 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2019 as considered by the health, ageing and community services committee. I present the following paper:

Health, Ageing and Community Services—Standing Committee—Schedule of Statutory Appointments—9th Assembly—Period 1 January to 30 June 2019.

Health—meningococcal B vaccination program

Ministerial statement

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Children, Youth and Families, Minister for Health and Minister for Urban Renewal) (10.05): I thank the Assembly for the opportunity to update the Assembly on meningococcal B vaccinations for babies in the ACT. The ACT government is committed to protecting the health of Canberrans from vaccine-preventable diseases across their lives, from birth through to older age. We have a proud record of responding to the needs of the Canberra community, funding immunisation programs to complement those available through the national immunisation program. An example of this includes the early implementation of the free vaccination against pertussis, whooping cough, available to all pregnant women during their third trimester as part of our antenatal pertussis vaccination program, and free vaccination against influenza for all children aged six months to under five years, which we have funded over the past two flu seasons.

Amongst children in the ACT, our immunisation rates are some of the highest in the country, which is also incredibly good news for the overall health of our community and a testament to the work that happens across our health services, from our early childhood immunisation clinics to our school health team and primary care practitioners and staff at the health protection service who distribute our vaccines to general practices and other immunisation providers.

That brings me to why, in 2016, a commitment was made to introduce a meningococcal B vaccination for babies, acknowledging that meningococcal disease can have very serious consequences. As members may be aware, meningococcal disease is caused by several strains of meningococcal bacteria, most commonly by A, B, C, W and Y strains. The ACT Health Directorate, along with their colleagues in other jurisdictions, have been monitoring the patterns of this disease, which have been changing significantly. What has been observed is a clear decrease in meningococcal B cases. Here in the ACT, the B strain has now become extremely rare, with only four confirmed cases of the strain since 2014. Since 2014, rates of other meningococcal diseases have increased in Australia, with this increase in cases predominantly from the W and Y strains.

Unfortunately, MenW cases in Australia are associated with a higher fatality rate. This is a trend that has also been observed in other countries and is why, in 2018, the ACT government responded to this emerging threat with the introduction of a free adolescent MenACWY vaccination program in place of a MenB vaccination for babies. The program was rolled out to year 10 students in all ACT high schools, as well as a 12-month catch-up vaccination for 16 to 19-year-old teenagers which could


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