Meningococcal ACWY vaccine
Meningococcal disease is a rare but severe infection that can cause death within 24 hours or profound life-long disability (brain damage, hearing loss, limb loss). Starting 2016, Queensland (and other Australian jurisdictions) noticed a substantial rise of meningococcal disease caused by meningococcal strains W and Y.
Meningococcal disease is a rare but severe infection that occurs when meningococcal bacteria invade the body from the throat or nose.
Meningococcal bacteria are carried in the nose and throat of a small proportion of healthy people (in about 10%) and are spread through close prolonged contact. The bacteria are more commonly found in teenagers and young adults. There are a number of different strains of meningococcal bacteria. Worldwide, the main strains that cause meningococcal disease are A, B, C, W and Y.
Most people with meningococcal infection fully recover, but some people who survive can develop long-term health complications including limb deformity, skin scarring, deafness and possible loss of brain function. Meningococcal W disease has a higher death rate than meningococcal C and meningococcal B infections and may be fatal in about 1 in 10 cases.
It is not easy to catch meningococcal disease. While the bacteria can be spread via droplets from the nose or throat during coughing and sneezing, close and prolonged contact with a person who has the bacteria in their nose or throat is usually needed for the bacteria to spread. For example, the disease is not spread by sharing cups, drinks or cigarettes. As meningococcal bacteria cannot live long outside of the body, the infection can also not be picked up from water supplies, swimming pools, bed linen or pillows.
After exposure to the bacteria, it usually takes from three to four days to become ill, although sometimes it can be as little as one day or as long as 10 days.
The symptoms of meningitis don't appear in any particular order and may appear differently in different people. In older children and adults symptoms of meningitis can include headache, fever, vomiting, neck stiffness, drowsiness and confusion, and discomfort looking at bright lights. There may also be a rash, particularly with meningococcal meningitis where there is often a characteristic purplish-red rash which does not fade under pressure.
If anyone has the above symptoms, seek urgent medical attention. Early treatment can sometimes prevent serious complications.
Why are students vaccinated at this age?
Some types of meningococcal disease can be prevented with immunisation and these include meningococcal A, B, C, W, and Y. There is no single vaccine that provides protection against all strains of meningococcal disease.
Some of the highest rates of meningococcal carriage occur among 15 to 19 year olds and this age group can transmit the meningococcal bacteria to people who are at increased risk of infection, including young children. This program is offering free meningococcal ACWY vaccination to all Year 10 students through the School Immunisation Program.
The Meningococcal ACWY Vaccination Program is designed to protect young people and reduce risks for the community as a whole by decreasing the proportion of people carrying the bacteria in their nose and throat.
Is the vaccine safe?
The meningococcal ACWY vaccine is safe and effective. Meningococcal ACWY vaccination programs targeting adolescents have been effectively implemented in the UK since 2015 and in the US since 2005.
The vaccine contains the antigens of four serogroups (A, C, W135 and Y) which are conjugated to a carrier protein. It also contains other additives in very small amounts to either assist the vaccine to work or to act as a preservative.
Serious side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare. Minor side effects that may be experienced include tenderness, redness or swelling at the site of injection and, low grade fever.
Can these vaccines have side effects?
Like all medications, vaccines may have side effects but serious side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare. Minor side effects that may be experienced include tenderness, redness or swelling at the site of injection and, low grade fever.
If your child has a reaction after vaccination you should?
- put a cold damp cloth on the area to relieve the pain if your child complains of tenderness at the injection site.
- give paracetamol (as per directions) only if pain and fever are present.
- contact your local doctor or seek medical attention if your child has an unexpected reaction that you are concerned about
- provide feedback to us via Smartvax SMS we will send to you 7 days after immunisation.
To get more information:
School immunisation clinics are provided by a team of specially trained registered nurses.
If your child can't be vaccinated at school you can take your child to a free community immunisation clinic run by Gold Coast Public Health Unit. No appointment is required. For clinic dates and times visit www.health.qld.gov.au/immuniseGC. Alternatively, take your child to your local doctor - the vaccine is free however, you may be charged a doctor's consultation fee. When making an appointment, advise reception what vaccines are required so they can be ordered.
The Information Privacy Act 2009 sets out the rules for collection and handling of personal information contained in the School Immunisation Program vaccination consent card.
As part of participation in the School Immunisation Program, Queensland Health collects details such as the student’s name, contact information, Medicare number and relevant health information. We also need to collect contact details for the parent or legal guardian of the student. This information is needed to correctly deliver vaccinations and to record vaccination details on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).
Authorised Queensland Health staff and Vaccine Service Providers (Smartvax) registered with Queensland Health may access your information for the purpose of clinical follow-up or disease prevention, control and monitoring. Your information will not be accessed by or given to any other person or organisation without your permission unless permitted or required by law.
The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), previously known as the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register, was established in 1996 and is a national register of vaccinations of people who live in Australia.
The immunisation record will be sent to and kept by AIR, which is run by the Department of Human Services.
For information about how the Gold Coast Health protects your personal information, or to learn about your right to access your own personal information, see the Privacy Plan on the health service’s website www.goldcoast.health.qld.gov.au.
If you are unable to access all immunisation records via AIR you may be able to search missing immunisation records by completing and submitting an Immunisation Records Request online. www.goldcoast.health.qld.gov.au/immunisegc