It would not have escaped those who follow the vaccination issue closely, that there is a big push going on in Australia at the moment to have as many people as possible vaccinated against Meningococcal Disease. Tasmania is no exception, with the state government having introduced a “free” Meningococcal ACWY vaccine for all Tasmanians up to the age of 21 years, from 01 July 2018. This is in addition to Meningococcal vaccination for strains A, C, W and Y for children aged 12 months of age which replaced the meningococcal C vaccine as part of the National Immunisation Program from the same date.
Vaccination against Meningococcal Disease is highly promotable due to one of the dramatic, but extremely rare consequences claimed to arise from the disease: septicaemia requiring limb amputation. Despite the high profile given to the disease by mainstream media, Invasive Meningococcal Disease is actually a low incidence disease, with only 381 cases reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System during 2017, compared to 353 cases in 1991, which is prior to any Meningococcal vaccines being used in Australia. Most recover without incident.
As with all vaccines, Meningococcal vaccines carry risks ranging from minor to serious, but as we know, parents are only warned about the less serious ones, such as fever and a sore arm.
Kyra, a previously healthy four year old girl from northern Tasmania, was recently hospitalised with Kawasaki Disease, less than 48 hours after she received ACWY Meningococcal vaccination, Menactra by Sanofi-Aventis.
Kawasaki Disease is a type of vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) which can also lead to permanent organ damage, most importantly, to the heart. Most of the many sub-types of vasculitis have been reported following vaccination.
It’s fair to say that the hospital staff did not have a clue what was wrong with Kyra initially, dismissing her symptoms as arising from a ‘viral infection’. When Kyra’s mum challenged that diagnosis, a staff member told her they were more worried about her mental state, than they were about Kyra.
The medical staff were absolutely sure of one thing though: Kyra was not having an adverse reaction to the vaccine she had received only two days previously, with one nurse proclaiming that if Kyra was having a vaccine reaction, she would eat her hat!
The Australian Department of Health defines an AEFI as any serious or unexpected adverse event that occurs after a vaccination has been given which may be related to the vaccine itself or to its handling or administration.
Over the next couple of days, Kyra’s condition deteriorated, and she had to be airlifted to Royal Hobart Hospital where she was finally given the diagnosis of Kawasaki Disease, and commenced on Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG) and aspirin.
If not for the tenacity of her Mum, Kyra could have easily been sent home from the first hospital with a diagnosis of ‘viral infection’ resulting in a further critical delay in treatment for this potentially fatal disease. When will medical staff accept that parents know their children best?
Although Kyra has recovered from the vasculitis, she is traumatised by her experience, and her parents face a long wait to know if there are any permanent health consequences for their daughter.
A doctor at Royal Hobart Hospital finally conceded that Kyra’s condition was likely to be related to the vaccine she had received, and at the pleading of Kyra’s mum, completed an adverse vaccine reaction report for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
As for that nurse… Bon Appétit!