What meningococcal vaccines protect you from

Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria. It can lead to 2 very serious illnesses:

  • meningitis — an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord
  • septicaemia — blood poisoning.

There are different types of meningococcal bacteria, including A, B, C, W, and Y. In New Zealand, most meningococcal disease is caused by group B bacteria.

The disease is spread in similar ways to the common cold — by coughing and sneezing, or by contact with saliva (spit).

Risks of meningococcal disease

Meningococcal disease can develop rapidly and be life-threatening. It can become deadly in just a few hours.

People who survive meningococcal disease often have serious long-term effects, including amputation of limbs, hearing loss, seizures, brain injury, and permanent skin scarring.

The meningococcal vaccines protect against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease (internal link)


MenB immunisation for tamariki under 5 years old

On 1 March 2023, the meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine was added to the National Immunistion Schedule for babies at 3 months, 5 months, and 12 months old. 

Your pēpi will be offered the MenB vaccine as part of their usual scheduled immunisations. 

There is also an option to have your pēpi immunised slightly earlier at 2 months, 4 months, and 12 months old. This will mean extra appointments. You can discuss this with your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider during your baby’s 6-week immunisation appointment.

MenB vaccine catch-ups

If your tamariki received their 3 month, 5 month, or 12 month immunisations before 1 March 2023, they would not have received the MenB vaccine. But they can catch up.

All tamariki under 5 years old, who have not been fully immunised against MenB, can catch up for free until 31 August 2025.

MenACWY and MenB for ages 13 to 25 years old

MenACWY and MenB vaccines are free for ages 13 to 25 years old in their first year of close-living situations (including up to 3 months before).

Close living situations include:

  • boarding schools hostels
  • tertiary education halls of residence
  • military barracks
  • youth justice facilities
  • prisons.

Close living situations does not include:

  • flatting
  • other group living situations.

If you have previously had meningococcal vaccinations

If your last meningococcal vaccinations were more than 5 years ago, get immunised again for best protection.

Tamariki and adults at high risk

Additional meningococcal vaccines and doses may be available and free for children and adults at high risk of disease due to medical conditions, or people who have been in close contact with someone with meningococcal disease. these include the:

  • MenB vaccine
  • MenACWY vaccine.

Talk to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider to see if this is recommended for you or your tamariki.

If you are not eligible for a free meningococcal vaccine

If you, or your tamariki, are not eligible for free meningococcal immunisations and you would like to be protected, talk to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider about whether extra protection is a good idea and what it might cost. 

On average 1 dose of a meningococcal vaccine costs $130. 


How to book a meningococcal vaccine

Meningococcal vaccine bookings can be made:


Which vaccines are used

MenB vaccine

Bexsero is the vaccine we use in New Zealand to protect against meningococcal B.

Bexsero information — Medsafe (PDF 257KB) (external link)

MenACWY

Menactra or MenQuadfi are the free vaccines we use in New Zealand to protect against meningococcal A, C, W, and Y. You need 1 dose.

Menactra information — Medsafe (PDF 32KB) (external link)

MenQuadfi information — Medsafe (PDF 307KB) (external link)


Side effects and reactions

Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.

Mild reactions are normal and shows that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

Reactions normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your body within a few hours or days.

The most common reaction to meningococcal immunisation includes:

  • a slight fever
  • pain or swelling where the needle went in
  • headache
  • crying, being upset, and hard to settle (in babies and toddlers)
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • aches and pains
  • dizziness.

The MenB vaccine can cause quite high fevers – particularly for tamariki under 2 years.

Before the vaccination

If possible give your tamariki paracetamol just before the vaccination appointment time. Check the instructions on the paracetamol label to find out how much to give your child.

If you forget or do not have any – do not worry, your vaccinator can give some when you arrive at the appointment.

If you have questions before your appointment talk to your doctor or trusted healthcare professional.

After the vaccination

After the first dose of paracetamol, a further 2 doses of paracetamol are recommended. A 6-hour gap should be left between doses.

This will help reduce the chance of your baby developing a fever after their vaccine.

It’s important to give the exact amount recommended by the vaccinator and at the appropriate times.

Your vaccinator will ask if you have enough paracetamol at home – if not, they can provide you with a prescription, or a small supply of paracetamol.


Allergic reactions

Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.

Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.

Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination. This is why your tamariki need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.