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Vaccines for Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is serious and can sometimes cause death or permanent disability such as deafness or disfigurement.

There are a number of vaccines available which protect against different strains of meningococcal disease. In New Zealand, there is a conjugate vaccine that protects against meningococcal groups A,C,Y and W, a conjugate vaccine for group C only, and a vaccine introduced for group B in October 2018.  

They are not publicly funded under the National Immunisation Schedule (apart from some people at high risk i.e. without spleens), but are available for private purchase through your GP.

The MeNZB™ vaccine was introduced and offered to all babies, children and teenagers in New Zealand from 2004 to 2008 against an epidemic of a specific strain of the meningococcal B disease. The MeNZB™ vaccine is no longer on New Zealand’s Immunisation Schedule. The rates of disease caused by this particular strain fell to a level where experts advised that offering it routinely was no longer necessary.

Today In New Zealand, the three main types of meningococcal vaccines available are;

Meningococcal A, C, Y and W conjugate vaccine - Menactra or Nimenrix

This protects against groups A, C, Y and W and is available for persons over the age of two through to 55 years. Initial immunisation involves one vaccine dose which lasts approximately 3 years – This period may be shorter for young children and longer for some people.

This is free and recommended for;

  • Adults before or after a splenectomy 

  • Children before or after a splenectomy, or suffering from functional asplenia (where the spleen doesn’t function at all, or only partly)

This vaccine is also recommended, but not funded for;

  • Young adults entering hostel-type accommodation, especially for their first year (note: meningococcal C conjugate vaccine can also be used)

  • People with sickle cell anaemia

  • People with terminal complement deficiencies

  • People with HIV infection

  • Military recruits

  • Microbiologists and laboratory workers who may be exposed to meningococcal bacteria isolates

  • Travellers to regions where this disease is prevalent, especially anyone taking part in the Hajj, or visiting sub-Saharan Africa (known as the ‘Meningitis Belt’)

Meningococcal C conjugate vaccine - NeisVac-C

This vaccine provides protection against group C meningococcal bacteria.

This can be used to protect babies under the age of 24 months. Infants who are less than 12 months of age need three doses to be protected. Children over 12 months of age and adults need one dose to be protected.

This vaccine lasts two to three years in children under six years of age and around five years in adults and children over six years of age.  

Meningococcal B vaccine - Bexsero

This vaccine provides protection against group B meningococcal bacteria.

This can be used to protect babies, children, adolescents and adults.

Babies younger than six months of age need three doses to be fully protected. Older babies, children adolescents and adults need two doses to be protected. 

 

Are there possible reactions to the vaccine?
Local reactions to the polysaccharide vaccine are usually mild, and can include redness, and swelling and pain at the injection site and the local lymph glands. Fever and chills occur in approximately two percent of young children.

Common reactions to the conjugate vaccine can include pain, redness and swelling at the site of injection, fever, irritability, decreased appetite and headaches.

Significant adverse reactions are rare.

For more advice on vaccines and their availability, talk to your family doctor, call the free Immunisation Advisory Centre helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863), or see the Immunisation Handbook (2011).

Current vaccination information sourced from the Ministry of Health website

 

Disclaimer - The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand promotes the prevention, control and awareness of meningitis. It is not a professional medical authority. The text on this website provides general information about meningitis and septicaemia, not medical advice. It is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of these diseases. Please consult your doctor to discuss the information or if you are concerned someone may be ill.

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