All Year 11 and 12 students in New South Wales will be offered a free meningococcal vaccination. According to authorities, this is done to combat the rise of a strain of the possibly deadly disease.

According to the Health Minister Brad Hazzard, about $9 million will be allocated to the vaccination program, which is also known as the NSW Meningococcal W Response Program, which is expected to begin in term two. It targets to vaccinate students aged 17 and 18 this year.

Consequently, around 180,000 vulnerable teenagers in all high schools would be eligible to get the vaccine. According to experts, the NSW Meningococcal W Response Program targets this age group because these teens are especially at risk due to their physical closeness to one another.

“This week I made clear to senior health officials that the NSW government would do whatever possible to protect our young people against meningococcal W and other strains,” the Health Minister said in a statement released on Monday.

This new strain of the disease has caused an alarm to health officials and workers. Now, officials advise everyone to be on alert. Teenagers who still fit the age description but are no longer attending school are still eligible for the vaccine. In the past two years, the W strain cases have tripled and in 2016, two died from it in NSW alone.

The Western Australian government also decided to offer vaccinations for over 150,000 students. However, it would ideal if such measures should be taken at a national level. “The advice we’ve had is that it would be preferable for this vaccination campaign to be undertaken on a national basis,” the WA Health Minister John Day stated last week. “We have been in discussions with the Commonwealth … the issue is still under consideration.

Day also hopes that other states would follow suit. As Yahoo 7 reports, he added: “We are starting on a state-wide basis, we do hope that other states and the Commonwealth ultimately will adopt the same strategy, but we have made this decision in Western Australia to start it off and to go alone, and we hope that others will follow.”

Last month, it was reported that thousands of kids across the NSW got exposed to the W strain of meningococcal disease. Currently, it toppled the strains C and B as the most common strain of the disease.

The Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told The Daily Telegraph that this must be taken seriously. The federal Health Department has sought an effective response to the meningococcal strain at the national level.

Read more:

Thousands of NSW Kids Exposed to Meningococcal Disease

Australia Meningococcal Outbreak: Should Vaccines Be Made Mandatory