A mass meningococcal immunisation program in response to a community outbreak in Tasmania

Lucy Hughson1

1Public Health Services, Department of Health, Tasmania, lucy.hughson@health.tas.gov.au


From 2007 to 2016 Tasmania averaged around 4 cases of Invasive Meningococcal Diseases (IMD) notified to Public Health Services (PHS) annually. In 2017 Tasmania funded a Meningococcal ACWY immunisation program for 15 to 19-year-olds in response to an increase in serogroup W IMD.

Within 2 weeks in July 2018 there occurred 4 cases of serogroup W IMD, including 1 death and a community outbreak of 3 cases geographically clustered in Hobart’s northern suburbs. In response to these cases, the program was expanded to Tasmanians aged 6 weeks to 20 years. The target group of this mass immunisation program was 115 000 unimmunised Tasmanians, with an initial urgent response in the area of the community outbreak, then state-wide rollout. Vaccine was delivered via general practices, councils, large public clinics, pharmacies (for 10 to 21-year olds) and a school-based program (in the outbreak area).

Challenges included vaccine accessibility, storing and distributing the large volume of vaccine, promoting and evaluating the program, and securing an immunisation workforce. Workforce challenges included the sudden, large demand on general practice; and providing pharmacists with training and authorisation to enable them to provide vaccine to 10 to 21-year olds.

By early 2019, PHS had distributed over 90 000 doses of vaccine, and in the outbreak area 82% of eligible Tasmanians received the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine.  In the 12 months since the start of the program there have been 3 cases of potentially locally acquired serogroup W IMD, but all outside the target age group with two aged over 60 years and one in their 30s.

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