With less than three weeks left in the Northland DHB's meningococcal W vaccination campaign, clinics will be set up at secondary schools around the region this week and next to give every eligible Northlander the chance to be immunised.
Children and teenagers must be aged between nine months and 5 years, or 13 and 20 years, and resident in Northland to qualify for free vaccination.
"The outbreak campaign was launched just three weeks before Christmas, so many schools had already broken up for the holidays," Medical Officer of Health Dr Jose Ortega Benito said.
"We really want parents and caregivers to take advantage of the free meningococcal W outbreak campaign so that our Northland children are better protected from this deadly disease."
In the previous two weeks, two new cases of invasive meningococcal disease had been reported in Auckland and Canterbury, and with the expected usual increase in cases over winter it was vital that the Northland community be better protected. As of nine days ago, 11,797 of the 22,707 children eligible had been vaccinated.
"Sadly we had three deaths in Northland last year, and therefore we are really focused on ensuring that every single eligible Northland child (22,707 of them ) is given the opportunity to be protected," Dr Benito said.
"Vaccinating teenagers is really important, because this is the age group that generally carries the bacterium that causes the disease.
"Even if they have no symptoms, carriers can infect those around them. Vaccinating this age group will lower the number of carriers in Northland, and stop the spread of meningococcal disease across the entire community."
Phase III of the vaccination campaign had begun, with pharmacy, general practice, targeted Maori provider outreach and secondary school-based clinics being offered until February 22.
Dr Benito urged parents and caregivers to take action "while you still can".
"Northland could be the safest place in New Zealand from meningococcal W if we get high enough levels of coverage from the outbreak campaign," he said.
All clinic information is published on the Northland DHB website and Facebook page.
The symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, rash, drowsiness or irritability. Anyone who suspects that they or someone else may have the disease should seek medical help immediately from their local hospital, GP, or call Healthline (phone 0800 611-116).
Vaccinations at schools
All eligible Northland children (aged nine months to 5 years, and between 13 and 20) who have not yet been vaccinated against meningococcal disease will be able to do so this week and next at five Far North schools.
The clinics will be at Taipa Area School today, Kaitaia College tomorrow, Bay of Islands College on Friday, Okaihau College on Monday next week (February 18), and Northland College on Tuesday.
Every signed consent form received, resulting in vaccination, before the campaign ends will go into the draw for one of five $200 phone data vouchers.
The consent form is available on the DHB's website (www.northlanddhb.org.nz) and Facebook page.