Father urges teens to get killer disease vaccination

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The father of an Albany teenager who died from meningococcal disease recently is pleading for young people to get a free vaccine that could save lives.

Terry Dunham, 57, of Ongerup, saidteenagers’ “invincible” attitude was no defence against the deadly disease, which struck his youngest son Lloyd, 19, so swiftly he had no chance of surviving.

“Teenagers think they’re invincible, that nothing can harm them, so why get a needle for something they’ve never even heard of?” Mr Dunham said.

“The message just needs to get out there to all you young blokes and ladies — it can happen to anyone. You can’t just say, ‘Hey I’m a fit, healthy, young person, it’ll never happen to me’.

“Well, it happened to Lloydie and he was a fit, healthy, young bloke.

“This is one hell of a serious bacteria that gets into the body.

“It just multiplies so rapidly and, as was the case with Lloydie, there was nothing they could do.”

Mr Dunham said there needed to be wider access to the ACWY vaccine, which the WA Government was providing free to 15-19-year-olds as the number of W-strain cases rose across Australia.

So far this year, WA has had 19 cases of meningococcal, with 11 being serogroup W. This week alone, a young child and a middle-aged man have been admitted to hospital in Perth because of what WA Health described as the emergence of new virulent strains of serogroup W strain.

A WA Health spokesman said 23,000 doses of the free ACWY vaccine had been administered at high schools, mostly during Term 3.

He said the uptake was 55-73 per cent across 188 private and public schools but the uptake at universities, which had just started offering the vaccine, was far less.

Only 300 shots had been given at university campuses, which were also offering it to non-students.

Another 500 doses had been provided to teenagers at other healthcare centres.

Meningitis Centre of Australia chairman Bruce Langoulant said the vaccination program was failing to reach 18-19-year-olds.

“There are about 68,000 18-19-year-olds in WA so, with the number of shots done so far, it’s nothing, we need to do more to reach these teens,” he said.

Mr Langoulant said the centre was working with GPs to “encourage creative thinking” to reach as many 18-19-year-olds as possible.

He said GPs would offer the free vaccine as of September 23.

Lloyd died suddenly of the W strain on Saturday, August 19 in Tasmania where he was visiting his sister, Lucy, 18.

On his way to the airport to fly home, he started vomiting and lost consciousness. Lloyd died in hospital the same day.

“He wanted to finish his apprenticeship (as a diesel mechanic) and get a new tray on the back of his ute — he just wanted to live life,” Mr Dunham said.

“If Lloydie’s passing can get other people to get vaccinated and save a life or two along the way, he’d be proud of that.”

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