'After hearing the stories of heartbroken Queensland families, I had to act'

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The Queensland Government has followed South Australia in funding access to GSK's meningococcal B vaccine, BEXSERO.

Late last week, Queensland health minister Shannon Fentiman announced the vaccine would be funded for all infants and children under two and all adolescents aged 15 to 19 years from 2024, as the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended.

The National Immunisation Program only funds BEXSERO for indigenous infants.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has rejected the comprehensive inclusion of BEXSERO on the National Immunisation Program schedule four times since 2013.

Queensland has recorded 20 cases of meningococcal B in the first seven months of 2023, following 10 cases at the same time last year, with a total 26 in 2022.

Minister Fentiman said the program would cost around $90 million over three years.

“After hearing the stories of heartbroken Queensland families, I had to act," said Minister Fentiman.

“Jodie and Blair Fidler didn’t know their beautiful daughter Bella wasn’t protected from meningococcal B through the existing school vaccination program, which only covers the A,C,W and Y strains.

“It is just amazing that Bella’s family has been able to channel their grief into advocacy for something that will undoubtedly save Queensland lives," she said.

The Queensland government's investment in BEXSERO is its single largest investment in a vaccine program and follows its recent decision to provide the flu vaccine free to all its residents.

“We know the meningococcal B strain can be lethal and – if a young person is lucky enough to survive the disease - it’s likely they will develop permanent and sometimes devastating complications," said Minister Fentiman.

“I also want to thank Meningococcal Y survivor Phoebe O’Connell and her mum Katy, for their fierce advocacy on this topic.

“Phoebe is still here thanks to the precious gift of a kidney, from her Mum, which she needed after contracting this terrible disease.

“The Palaszczuk Government will continue to advocate for a nationally-consistent approach to funded MenB vaccines under the National Immunisation Program.”