Sixty thousand eligible teenagers and young adults from across South Australia who are enrolled in Years 10, 11 and 12 in 2017 will be offered free of charge vaccinations against Meningococcal B as part of a state wide study into the impact of immunising large community groups against the disease.
The study – B Part of It – is being led by the University of Adelaide in partnership with SA Health and has been approved by the Women’s and Children’s Health Network Human Research Ethics Committee. Vaccinations will be available to students in participating schools across South Australia during 2017 and 2018.
“South Australia has had the highest rate of meningococcal disease in Australia since 2012, with more cases in adolescents than infants,” said Associate Professor Helen Marshall, Director of the Vaccinology and Immunology Research Trials Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute. “It is vital we learn more about the disease and the benefits of vaccinating against Meningococcal B.
“At this point in time, a vaccine is not available for free through the National Immunisation Program, because more information is required to demonstrate whether – in addition to the individual protection it offers – immunisation prevents transmission to others. This study will examine if the Meningococcal B vaccine reduces the spread of meningococcal bacteria in teenagers through what is known as herd immunity.”
Associate Professor Marshall, who is leading the study, said the University of Adelaide was working closely with local government, councils, the Department of Education and Child Development, Catholic Education South Australia and the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia to support all schools in the state to become involved.
She urged all schools to sign up to the study in advance of the 2017 school year, and to seek parental consent for students in Years 10, 11 and 12 to participate.
“We hope all Year 10, 11 and 12 students will B Part of It and take up the opportunity to be protected against Meningococcal B,” said Professor Marshall. “Each year in Australia, 5-10 per cent of people with meningococcal disease die, despite rapid treatment, and in this state, 88 per cent of cases of the disease result from the B strain – it is critical we undertake this study to determine whether the Meningococcal B vaccine can reduce spread of the meningococcus bacteria amongst adolescents.”
Participants in the study – which is being funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – will be vaccinated with two doses of the licensed Meningococcal B vaccine, given approximately eight weeks apart. In addition, two throat swabs will be collected during 2017 and 2018.
The Minister for Health, Jack Snelling MP, said the Government of South Australia had thrown its full support behind the study and joined Associate Professor Marshall in calling on schools across South Australia to sign up and provide their students with the opportunity to B Part of It.
“In South Australia, we’ve seen the devastating consequences of meningococcal disease – and particularly the B strain – too many times this year, so studies like these are critical in trying to tackle this disease,” said Minister Snelling.
“Ultimately, the State Government would like to see as many Year 10, 11 and 12 students as possible provided with access to this vaccine. I urge all principals from all South Australian schools, both public and private, to take part.”