April 14, 2015
Several vaccines are available which protect against different groups of meningococcal disease – A, C, Y and W135. These vaccines aren’t free (except for some people whose spleens don’t work or who don’t have a spleen), but they’re available for private purchase through general practices if people want them.
Meningococcal immunisation may also be funded by local district health boards for public health purposes such as a disease outbreak.
Who should have the meningococcal vaccine
This vaccine is recommended and available free for:
- people who have had or are having an operation to partly or completely remove the spleen (splenectomy)
- children with a spleen doesn’t work properly (functional asplenia).
It’s also recommended, but not funded, for:
- young people moving to hostels, especially in their first year
- people with sickle cell anaemia
- people with terminal complement deficiencies
- people with HIV
- military recruits
- microbiologists and laboratory workers who could be exposed to meningococcal bacteria
- travellers to regions where this disease is common – in particular people participating in the hajj, and people travelling to sub-Saharan Africa (the so-called ‘Meningitis Belt’).
There are a number of meningococcal vaccines which protect against different strains of the disease but none of them provide long-term protection. The vaccines listed below tend to last around three-to-five years.
Even if you have been immunised in the past you may still not be protected against the disease. It’s important therefore that you’re aware of the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease, and seek medical advice quickly if you’re concerned.
There are two main types of meningococcal vaccine available in New Zealand:
- ‘Polysaccharide’ meningococcal vaccines, which protect against 4 groups – A, C, Y, and W135. These are available for use over the age of 2.
- ‘Conjugate’ meningococcal vaccines – 1 vaccine which protects against A, C, Y, and W135 meningococcal bacteria and 2 vaccines which protect against group C only. The ages at which these vaccines can be given varies depending on the vaccine used.