26 December 2022

'Ally's Legacy' urges parents to check the coverage of their children's meningococcal vaccines

| Claire Fenwicke
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Young woman in blue dress

Ally Behan (18, pictured in her high school formal dress) died after contracting meningococcal B. Photo: Supplied.

Ally Behan’s family thought they had done everything right to protect their little girl from meningococcal.

The Manyana teenager had received the Year 10 vaccine as part of the NSW Immunisation program, which also exists in the ACT.

However, her parents didn’t realise the jab only covered the A, C, W and Y strains.

Ally died from the meningococcal B strain after visiting Canberra’s Spilt Milk festival earlier this year.

She was 18 years old and had just finished high school in Ulladulla.

A family member, who did not wish to be identified, said they now wanted Ally’s story to warn other parents their children also may not be protected against this devastating illness.

“We would like to continue ‘Ally’s Legacy’ of helping people and make everyone aware that an additional vaccination for meningococcal B is available from your GP at a personal cost,” they said.

“Had we known this, Ally’s outcome could have been very different.

“It’s too late for us, but if she can help save other lives, we want this to be her legacy.”

Vaccines for the A, C, W and Y strains are also part of the immunisation program for babies, but you do need to pay to cover your children against the B strain, the most common meningococcal strain in Australia.

The B vaccine is free for Aboriginal children and those who meet certain criteria.

“Some people carry the [B strain] in their throat and nose and don’t even get sick, so while you might not need to protect yourself, you could protect someone else,” Ally’s family member said.

“In the scheme of things, the price of the vaccine is nothing, really.”

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While it’s unknown where Ally contracted the disease, her family suspects it was from when she attended Spilt Milk.

“She turned 18 in April and she was just enjoying life, being able to drive, going into licenced venues and concerts by herself – just having fun until uni,” her family member said.

“She was going to Wollongong University. That was her next step.”

She had started feeling unwell the Thursday morning after the festival (1 December), so her family took her to Milton Ulladulla Hospital.

“It all happened from there,” her family member said.

“She was then flown from Milton to Canberra Hospital. It was the closest and quickest bed they could get for her.

“Canberra Hospital was absolutely brilliant.”

However, despite their best efforts, Ally died on the Saturday (3 December).

Her organs were donated to five other people: four women and a child.

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While her family is struggling with their loss, particularly so close to Christmas, they’re focusing on remembering their “beautiful girl”.

“She was lovely inside and out, so full of life and always loved a joke,” her family member said.

“She was very loyal to her friends, extremely family orientated, she loved animals and had her own dogs.

“She was just a normal, everyday girl living her life.”

Talk with your GP to check your meningococcal B protection status.

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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