A parent who lost a child to meningitis while she was away at university is urging the Government and tertiary institutions to bring in a vaccine mandate for university halls to better protect students against the deadly disease.
The call comes as health authorities prepare to start a vaccination campaign for meningococcal B, the most common type, targeting 13- to 25-year-olds who are staying at boarding schools and in halls of residence for the first time.
However, data obtained under the Official Information Act shows less than half the same group of students who were eligible for a free dose of a vaccine against other types of meningococcal disease – A, C, W, and Y – last year actually received it.
Paul Chapman’s daughter Miwa Chapman died at the age of 19 from meningococcal in 2020, when she was in her second year of an engineering degree at the University of Canterbury. In the hope of preventing similar tragedies, he wants to see vaccination against meningococcal become mandatory for entry to halls of residence.
* More than $21.7 million worth of potentially life-saving vaccines binned, including $1.6m for meningococcal
* Man’s marathon effort to honour wife who died of meningococcal hours after wedding
* Meningococcal cases increasing again after disease ‘almost disappeared’ in 2020
In 2019, Pharmac began funding a dose of the meningococcal A, C, W, Y vaccine for 13- to 25-year-olds who live in boarding schools, tertiary education halls or residence, military barracks and prisons.
It was estimated 8000 people each year would be eligible for the immunisation based on these criteria. But between September 2021 and November 25, 2022, just 3966 had received one.
On December 8, the drug-buying agency announced the same group of rangatahi would also be able to get a dose of the meningococcal B vaccine free from March 2023.
For Chapman, the way to lift vaccination meningococcal rates amongst students in halls of residence was obvious: “Compulsion is the only way to guarantee it. We see that with Covid vaccinations. Not everyone’s going to want to do that and that makes it tough. But these are ticking time bombs.”
According to the Ministry of Health, up to 15% of the population carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in their nose and throat without being sick.
In some people, for reasons not fully understood, these bacteria sometimes spread to the blood and cause blood poisoning or to the brain, causing meningitis.
The day before Miwa became ill, she attended a music festival with friends.
The following morning, her flatmates noticed she was vomiting and appeared to have a fever.
Miwa and her friends brushed off the symptoms as the aftermath of her having had alcohol the previous day. She also considered she might have the flu, while her flatmates thought she might be suffering from food poisoning.
Miwa was feeling better by midday and had something to eat, but started vomiting again about 11pm.
Her flatmates noted she appeared weak and struggled to walk. Miwa said she was content to wait until the next morning to go see a doctor.
But by 7am, they found she was not breathing and called an ambulance.
Emergency personnel found she had suffered a cardiac arrest and she was rushed to hospital where she later died.
An autopsy later confirmed Miwa had died of overwhelming sepsis caused by meningococcal disease.
Her father said that with so many of the population carrying the meningitis in their nasal and throat passage “it’s just a matter of a vulnerable person meeting someone who is particularly virulent at that particular point of time [and] it’s an incredibly bad luck story”.
Failing a mandate in halls of residence, Chapman said they should host pop-up clinics on campus during O Week. Nurses could also come to the first lectures of the semester to speak to students about the importance of getting vaccinated, he said.
Miwa wasn’t eligible for a funded dose of the meningococcal vaccine because she lived in a flat rather than a university hostel, but Chapman said he would have paid for her to be immunised against the disease if he had known a vaccine was available.
21-year-old Theo Edwards has been remembered as a friendly, generous man who loved the outdoors. (First published on August 28, 2021.)
He wasn’t aware the vaccine was available privately, for about $150 per dose.
Since Miwa’s death, Paul Chapman has supported a push for all Year 11 students to be vaccinated meningococcal. He said it wasn’t fair a teenager’s education, career choice or where they lived could dictate whether they were offered protection against the disease.
Chapman also wanted the Ministry to improve and increase communication about the meningococcal vaccines so no other parents missed their chance to act.
Victoria University acting chief operating officer Simon Johnson said the university did not normally mandate any vaccine, with the obvious exception of the Covid-19 vaccine.
It strongly recommended students in student accommodation were fully immunised against measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), meningococcal ACYW, meningococcal B, pertussis (whooping cough), and Covid-19.
As soon as the university received confirmation from the Ministry of any changes in the funding of the meningococcal B vaccine, it would advise students. The requirements for extra vaccination clinics would be assessed at the time.
A University of Canterbury spokesperson said the university made every effort to be proactive about meningococcal disease.
The vaccinewas promoted at halls of residence, through university communications and the university health centre’s nurse.
The University of Canterbury’s primary healthcare centre strongly recommended students had both the meningococcal and Covid-19 vaccines before they start studying.
University of Otago had one of the largest groups of young people living in residential colleges in the country, director of student services Claire Gallop said, so the university took its pastoral care role, including promoting the importance of meningococcal vaccination, incredibly seriously.
Otago did not mandate vaccines for entry into their residential colleges but did make them readily available.
“We will continue to promote the vaccination heavily as we have done in the past and will promote the fact that students living in residential colleges can now receive the vaccine for free.”
Lincoln University would not consider mandating meningococcal vaccinations for entry into halls stakeholder relationship manager Brenda Mills said.
Instead, student health contacted all eligible students to encourage them to book the vaccine. The vaccine was also offered when students came in for appointments at Student Health.
Student health would also be offering drop-in clinics for meningococcal group vaccines, similar to what was done with flu vaccines.
Te Whatu Ora was talking to key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, Department of Corrections, New Zealand Defence Force, and student health providers, to spread the message about meningococcal vaccine eligibility for rangatahi in close living situations.
Regarding widening vaccine access, Pharmac was yet to reach a decision about funding the meningococcal B vaccine for everyone.
In the meantime, the National Immunisation Programme would continue to advocate for an equity-focused approach to eligibility and funding of vaccines.
Pharmac was in the process of changing the brand for the meningococcal A C, W and Y vaccine as the existing one (Menactra) was being discontinued early this year. Director of operations Lisa Williams said Menactra stock was still available, but once that was gone it would not be able to be ordered and would be replaced by MenQuadFi, which would have the same eligibility criteria.
#dad #lost #daughter #meningitis #university #hes #health #crusade