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A meningococcal vaccine has been approved by the TGA

Photo: Meningococcal vaccine approved for infants
A vaccine that protects very young children against four strains of meningococcal has been approved by the TGA.

A combination vaccine that protects against four strains of potentially deadly meningococcal disease has been approved for use in young infants in Australia.

Vaccine MENVEO provides immunity to strains A, C, W and Y and was approved for use in babies from the age of two months by the Therapeutics Goods Administration, pharmaceutical company GSK announced on Tuesday.

Professor Robert Booy an infectious diseases expert at Sydney University says while meningoccoccal disease is rare infants under the age of one are at greatest risk and vaccination should be encouraged.
"Notifications of meningococcal disease usually peaks in late winter and early spring, so today's announcement is timely and gives parents a TGA-approved combination ACWY vaccine option to help protect their babies from this potentially devastating condition."

"Protection against multiple strains is important, as the most common strains can change over time," added Professor Booy.

Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection of the blood and/or membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

The disease can lead to death within 24 hours if not recognised quickly and treated in time.

Infants less than one year and children under the age of five are most at risk of meningococcal, with up to one in ten to die from the disease.

Currently, the B strain remains the most prevalent in babies, however the data shows there has been an emergence of the W strain.

Since 2013, the total number of meningococcal cases from any strain increased with a total of 109 cases of meningococcal W reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) in 2016.

The National Immunisation Program only covers the meningococcal C vaccine from 12 months of age.

Professor Booy says this vaccine is important because infants are at the biggest risk of contracting the W strain.

"For 30, 40 years the B strain has been the most common but last year for the first time the W strain was the most common, so it is a problem," Prof Booy told AAP.

Both Meningococal Australia and Meningitis Centre Australia have welcomed the vaccine's approval from the TGA.


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