SYDNEY, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Victorian teenagers will be offered free meningococcal vaccinations to combat the rise of a potentially lethal strain of the virus.
The Victorian Government announced on Wednesday that it would spend 5.3 million US dollars to protect teenagers aged between 15 and 19 from the W strain of meningococcal.
The announcement came as the number of diagnosed meningococcal W cases almost tripled from 17 in Victoria in 2015 to 48 in 2016.
Three people have died in Victoria alone from the virus in the past two years.
Jill Hennessy, Victoria's Health Minister, said the high number of incidents of the new strain forced the government to act.
"Most young parents are familiar with meningococcal C and B, [but] there is a new strain of meningococcal," Hennessy told reporters on Wednesday.
"In light of the fact that we've had 48 notifications, it's important to try and get a vaccination into a part of our population that is most at risk."
Hennessy said the 15-19 age group was chosen was based on the recommendation of national immunization experts as teenagers are at increased risk.
She said that Victoria had to pay for the program due to a lack of Federal Government funding.
"We've seen rates of meningococcal C rapidly decline since a national immunisation program was introduced," she said.
"We're lobbying the Federal Government to make immunisation program for Meningococcal W. To date our efforts have fallen on deaf ears."
The B strain of meningococcal is the most common form of the virus in Australia but the W strain has become increasingly prominent nationwide in the last two years.
Of the 256 cases of meningococcal disease in Australia in 2016, 48 to 50 per cent were cases of the W strain.
The strain has a death rate of around 10 per cent.