Thousands of kids across NSW have been exposed to a new strain of meningococcal disease, according to reports. There is no free vaccine to combat the disease. Due to this, healthcare officials and workers are on high alert for the deadly strain, which is also called W strain. As of now, it has dethroned the C and B strains as the most common strain of meningococcal disease.

Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told The Daily Telegraph that the strain must be taken seriously. People who go abroad are the only ones asked to be vaccinated against the strain.

“In Australia there are generally only two strains of meningococcal disease — C and B — but there has been a ¬noticeable increase in a previously rare third type, Type W,” Murphy said in an interview. “I have established a working group within the federal Health Department to look at the epidemiology and responses to meningococcal at the national level.”

Those who take it to go oversees have to go to private institutions for the vaccine. As of now, the vaccine of meningococcal disease available on the government’s National Immunization Program is for the C strain. Meanwhile, the cases for this strain have actually reduced greatly in the last decade thanks to immunizations.

The cost for the vaccine that also covers the W strain is $120 per dose. This, along with vaccines for the B strain, must be bought privately, Courier Mail reports.

Despite this problem, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has allegedly rejected three applications to include the meningococcal B vaccine on the NIP. The committee also said that they have not received any submission for the immunizations that include the W strain.

The West Australian government has announced recently that citizens around the age of 15 to 19 will be offered a vaccine for the W strain. A spokesperson for NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has not commented if they would do the same thing in NSW.