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The announcement by the State that more than 300,000 Fijians aged 19 years and below will be vaccinated against the meningococcal disease (Men-C) will no doubt be welcomed by many.

The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, made the revelation in Parliament yesterday. This followed endorsement by Cabinet. It is expected to cost the State $40 million.

Cabinet, he said, had “already approved the purchase or procurement of vaccines to vaccinate every single Fijian from 19 years and below”.

Approximately 345,000 Fijians, he said, would be vaccinated.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the World Health Organization and UNICEF were trying to source the drugs for the ministry.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services announced an outbreak of meningococcal in the country last month, confirming 38 cases had been recorded so far this year.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said because there was a huge demand for the vaccines also in South Africa, there was a huge impact on pricing.

He said he was aware some pharmacies were selling it for as high as $350.

The prices for Men-C vaccines in Fiji, he said, were not controlled by Government, but by the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission.

The turn of events is interesting. But as we have said before, it will be greeted with enthusiasm by many people.

The WHO in an earlier report said the most important thing that children and students can do to protect themselves is to know the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and to tell their parents, guardians, teacher or elder immediately if they are feeling unwell with the symptoms.

The WHO said it was important to remember that not everyone who had the bacteria would get the disease.

During an outbreak, between 10-25 per cent of the general population, it said, would carry the bacteria at the back of their nose and mouth from time to time, but would not have symptoms.

While the disease was uncommon, it said, it could affect anyone.

There was, however, a higher risk for babies, children and young adults.

Prior to 2016 there were 1-10 cases per year reported.

In 2016 there were 29 cases and this rose to 48 cases in 2017. As of February 21 this year, 18 cases were reported.

There was interest on how well prepared our health system was for this outbreak.

There was also attention focused on health workers and the resources at their disposal to deal with the frightening disease.

For now though, it is critically important that we are aware of symptoms of meningococcal disease. Early detection is important.

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