Today the Paediatric Society of New Zealand celebrated the passion and vision of one of its members, Professor Diana Lennon, whose work has lead to a major reduction in the toll wrought by meningococcal disease in New Zealand.
Northland Paediatrician Dr Roger Tuck said, "Since the vaccination campaign our nights on call have changed dramatically".
He described how in the past, every few days they were seeing cases of this terrifying brain and body destroying condition. Since mass vaccination, cases of meningococcal B septicaemia and meningitis have become rare. He compared this change to other successful immunisation programmes such as that for HIB.
"The HIB vaccine has been so successful that most young doctors working in paediatrics have never seen a case of this disease"
The success against meningococcal B disease has occurred through a process of methodical work, outstanding science, and a mass vaccination campaign. Professor Lennon of the University of Auckland lead the team that has identified the severity of the problem, and trialled the successful vaccine, proving it leads to immunity in most children.
Since 1991 New Zealand has been suffering a meningococcal B epidemic. The greatest burden of the 5800 cases and 232 deaths has fallen on our children and young people.
Members of our Society have cared for the majority of the children and young people with this condition.
Society President Dr Nick Baker said. "The only people who understand the impact of this dreadful condition more than our members are the parents of children and young people who have suffered from it."
"The dramatic reduction in cases is a major step forward for child and youth health."
Dr Baker encouraged parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated, but warned them that no vaccine is 100% successful, and even though case numbers have spectacularly dropped parents should remain vigilant for signs of the disease