Meningococcal vaccine

Be protected against meningococcal disease

The meningococcal vaccine protects against meningococcal disease. Meningococcal vaccine is also called Menactra®, NeisVac-C®, Nimenrix® and Bexsero®.

Meningococcal vaccines protects you against meningococcal disease

Although, meningococcal disease can affect anyone, teenagers and young adults living closely with others (eg, in boarding schools or university halls of residence), are at high risk and should be vaccinated to protect against meningococcal disease. 

  • Menactra® is free for people aged 13 to 25 years who, within the next 3 months will be living, or are in the first year of living in:
    • boarding school hostel
    • university hall of residence
    • military barracks
    • prison.
  • Menactra, NeisVac-C and Bexsero are free for people who have low immunity from certain medical conditions, or if they are a close contact of a meningitis case.

Meningococcal vaccines help protect you for up to 5 years. Talk to your healthcare provider if your last one was more than 5 years ago. 

For more information about getting immunised against meningococcal disease talk to your doctor, nurse or health centre OR phone Healthline’s 24-hour service on 0800 611 116.

What is meningococcal vaccine?

Meningococcal vaccines are used to protect against meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. The disease can lead to serious illnesses, including meningitis (inflammation of your brain membranes) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). These illnesses can develop quickly over a few hours and can cause serious disability or death, even among people who are otherwise healthy. People who survive meningococcal disease often have serious long-term effects, including amputation of arms and legs, hearing loss, seizures, brain injury and permanent skin scarring. Read more about meningococcal disease

The meningococcal vaccine protects you against the bacteria that causes meningococcal disease and reduces the number of people carrying N. meningitidis bacteria. This helps reduce the spread to your whānau and your community. 

At least 12 groups of N. meningitidis have been identified. These groups are named by letters. The most common groups in New Zealand are A, B, C, Y and W. There is no single vaccine that offers protection against all groups.

Which meningococcal vaccines are available in New Zealand?

 There are 4 different meningococcal vaccines registered in New Zealand to cover the different groups:

  • Menactra® covers groups A, C, W, Y   
  • NeisVac-C® covers group C 
  • Nimenrix® covers groups A, C, W, Y
  • Bexsero® covers group B.

Who should have the meningococcal vaccine?

People aged 13 to 25 years in a close-living situation

Menactra® is free for people aged 13 to 25 years who, within the next 3 months will be living, or are in the first year of living in boarding school hostel, university hall of residence, military barracks or prison.

During an outbreak

The vaccine is free for people who are close contacts in an meningococcal disease outbreak. 

People with high risk medical conditions

Regardless of whether there is an outbreak or not, the vaccine is recommended for people with high-risk medical conditions. Menactra®, NeisVac-C® and Bexsero® are free for people who:

  • are having or have had their spleen removed (splenectomy)
  • are HIV positive
  • are undergoing or have had an organ transplantation
  • have had stem cell/bone marrow transplantation
  • have had immunosuppression for longer than 28 days
  • are a close contact of someone with meningococcal disease.

Other recommended groups

Meningococcal vaccine is recommended but not free for:

  • infants and young children aged under 5 years
  • adolescents and young adults living in other types of overcrowded accommodation
  • laboratory workers regularly handling meningococcal cultures
  • people travelling to high-risk countries.

Contact your doctor or nurse for more information.

How effective is meningococcal vaccine?

Having the meningococcal vaccine doesn't give you lifelong protection. When you get the vaccine, it causes your body to produce antibodies to fight against the infection if you come into contact with the illness. But, over time, the antibody levels decrease. In older children, adolescents and adults, protection is expected to last for up to 5 years after vaccination.

How is meningococcal vaccine given?

Meningococcal vaccine is given by injection into a muscle, usually your mid-thigh or upper arm. The number of doses needed depends on the brand used and the age of the person. You can receive more than 1 meningococcal vaccine at a time if more than 1 type is needed.

Possible side effects 

Like all medicines, meningococcal vaccines can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve over time.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling, or redness around the injection site (hard and sore to touch)
  • Heavy arm
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after the injection and settles within a few days.
  • Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time. 
  • Don't rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if it bothers you.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if your child is miserable or distressed. But in children aged under 2 years who receive Bexsero, the routine use of paracetamol is recommended. Read more about Paracetamol use with Bexsero.
  • Read more about what happens after your immunisation.
  • Fever
  • It is quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after receiving the injection and usually settles within a few days.
  • Dress lightly, with a single layer of clothing. 
  • Keep the room cool, use a fan.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Tell your doctor if the fever persists.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if your child is miserable or distressed. But in children aged under 2 years who receive Bexsero, the routine use of paracetamol is recommended. Read more: Paracetamol use with Bexsero 
  • Read more: After your immunisation
  • Feeling unwell, tired or weak
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • These are quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after getting the injection.
  • It usually settles within a few days.
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Tell your doctor if it is troublesome.
  • Read more: After your immunisation
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as skin rash, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of your face, lips or mouth, or having problems breathing
  • Allergic reactions to meningococcal vaccine are rare.
  • If you get these signs within a few days of the vaccination, tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline 0800 611 116.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. 

If you don’t have a family doctor (GP), you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Phone them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need. 

You can find a clinic near you on the Healthpoint website. Put in your address and region, and under Select a service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.

You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

Learn more

The following links have more information on meningococcal vaccine.  

Meningococcal disease Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Meningitis prevention Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa, NZ
Bexsero Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Menactra Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
NeisVac-C Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Nimenrix Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

References

  1. Meningococcal disease Immunisation Handbook, NZ
  2. Meningococcal vaccine NZ Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 01 Sep 2022