Melbourne teenager and his family call for change to state’s meningococcal vaccination program after brush with death


A Frankston teenager and his family are calling for an overhaul to Victoria’s meningococcal vaccination program after the 18-year-old almost died when he was struck down by a strain of the deadly disease.

Lachy Wright woke up on the morning of December 12 with a sore throat.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Frankston family caught in a meningococcal nightmare.

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While his symptoms seemed mild at first, they quickly progressed, and he began having severe headaches and vomiting.

Within two days, Lachy was taken to hospital and placed in a coma.

His parents Lisa and Paul Wright were told he had contracted a strain of meningococcal, a highly infectious disease which can quickly turn deadly.

Lachy told 7NEWS he got a “pretty nasty surprise” when he woke up four days later.

“The doctors said, they pretty much gave me a five per cent chance (of surviving),” he said.

Meningococcal usually manifests as a blood infection or meningitis — the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Lachy had contracted the meningococcal B strain, a vaccine for which is available however only for certain groups of people.

Under the National Immunisation program, free vaccines are available for strains A, C, W and Y — strains which Lachy had been vaccinated against.

Children who are 12 months old, year 10 students and unimmunised people under 20 years old are among those eligible for this vaccine.

Lachy Wright was in a coma for four days after contracting meningococcal disease. Credit: 7NEWS
Lachy was vaccinated against meningococcal A, C, W and Y but not strain B, the one he had contracted. Credit: 7NEWS

Free immunisation for meningococcal B strain is available however only for risk groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children up to the age of two years old and people with certain medical conditions.

The vaccine is available on private prescription; however, it doesn’t come cheap, costing $280 for the two required doses.

While the eligibility criteria is decided by the federal government, some states, such as South Australia and Queensland, have implemented their own state-funded programs providing free access to strain B vaccines for infants, children and teenagers.

Lachy’s parents are advocating for the Victorian government to implement a similar program.

(Lachy is) an incredibly lucky young man,” the teenager’s father Paul said.

“Victoria needs to jump on board as well.

“We wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Lachy Wright and his parents Paul and Lisa are now calling for widespread access to the meningococcal B vaccine. Credit: 7NEWS
Lachy still has a long recovery ahead of him, including up to six weeks of antibiotics. Credit: 7NEWS

Chief executive of Meningitis Australia Karen Quick agreed state governments need to make the change instead of waiting for the federal government to do so.

“The federal government needs to fund this,” she said.

“They’ve got a lot of red tape to go through, but in the meantime the state governments can do it right here, right now.”

Lachy has lost 15kg over the course of his illness, and still has a long recovery ahead.

He will be on antibiotics for four to six weeks and will have to undergo rehab so he can get back to playing footy.

It’s still unclear how he contracted the disease.

The teenager was going to go to university this year however has decided to take a year off to enjoy his second chance at life.

“After all this … I’m looking forward to some time off,” he said.

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