GSK welcomes new Meningococcal B program to help protect those most at risk

GSK Australia today welcomed the addition of Meningococcal B (MenB) vaccination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants to the National Immunisation Program (NIP)1 as well as people of all ages with some medical conditions that increase their risk of Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD).

“This is welcome news for those at a higher risk of contracting this rare but potentially devastating disease, who can now access free immunisation,” said GSK Australia Vaccines Medical Director Dr Bishoy Rizkalla.

“From July 1st, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants and children, as well as Australians with some medical conditions, will now be able to access free immunisation to help protect them from MenB. This is a significant step forward for Australia’s NIP.”

While most survive meningococcal disease, the disease progresses rapidly and if not diagnosed or treated quickly, can lead to serious long-term disability or death within 24 hours.

The disease is caused by a bacterial infection of the blood and/or membranes that line the spinal cord and brain. It remains the most predominant strain in Australia, with infants and young children the most vulnerable population.

Meningococcal disease can be hard to diagnose, with symptoms such as fever and irritability easily mistaken for a common cold or flu.

Starting today, the MenB NIP will play an important role in helping to protect some of our most vulnerable populations from meningococcal disease cause by the B strain, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants from 2 months of age, with a catch-up program available until June 2023 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children < 2 years of age.
  • People of all ages with some specified medical conditions that increase their risk of invasive meningococcal disease (see list below):

- Defects in, or deficiency of, complement components, including factor H, factor D or properdin deficiency

- Current or future treatment with eculizumab (a monoclonal antibody directed against complement component C5)

- Functional or anatomical asplenia, including sickle cell disease or other haemoglobinopathies, and congenital or acquired asplenia

Other important changes to the NIP are being introduced to the NIP schedule, alongside the meningococcal B vaccination, including the eligibility of medically at-risk people for meningococcal ACWY vaccination.

Hepatitis A vaccination schedule points for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in NT, QLD, SA and WA will change with the introduction of the meningococcal B vaccine to the NIP.

Pneumococcal vaccination schedule will change to reflect the current best clinical evidence in
preventing pneumococcal disease in adults and in people with conditions that increase their risk of disease.

Awareness of meningococcal disease, the symptoms and risk factors, including the fact that multiple strains cause this disease, remains low in the Australian community.3

Speak to your doctor for more information about meningococcal disease including the changes to the National Immunisation Program and how to help protect your family.

Please speak to your doctor about whether any prescription product is suitable for your circumstances.