Meningitis vaccines

Key points about meningitis vaccine

  • Vaccines that can protect against meningitis include vaccines targeting meningococcal, pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) infections.
  • Find out about these vaccines and possible side effects.
blue unaunahi tile generic
Print this page

There are many causes of meningitis, the most common being infection caused by viruses or bacteria. These are called infective meningitis because they are caused by bugs which can be spread from person to person. 

Vaccines that can protect against meningitis include vaccines targeting meningococcal, pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) infections. 

Pneumococcal vaccine is used to prevent infections that are caused by the bug (bacteria) called Pneumococcus. These infections can range from sinusitis and ear infections to life-threatening infections like pneumonia and meningitis.

  • Pneumococcal vaccine is part of the New Zealand childhood immunisation schedule that is offered free to babies.
  • It is also offered free to children and adults with a weakened immune system, who are at high risk of pneumococcal infection.
  • Read more about pneumococcal vaccine.

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bug called N. meningitidis. At least 12 groups have been identified, including groups A, B, C, X, Y and W. The pattern of disease caused by each group varies by time and country or geographical areas. There are a few types of meningococcal vaccines in New Zealand to cover different groups. Read more about meningococcal disease.

A meningococcal vaccine is free for groups of people with a high risk of meningococcal disease. This includes children, teenagers and adults with a weakened immune system and young people aged 13 to 25 entering communal accommodation such as boarding school hostels, tertiary education halls of residence, military barracks and prisons. Read more about meningococcal vaccine.  

Haemophilus influenzae is the name of a group of bacteria that can cause mild to very serious illness. The most common is type B (Hib). These bacteria live in the nose and throat of most healthy people without causing illness. If the bacteria get into other parts of your body, it can cause infection. 

  • Babies and young children are most at risk of serious disease (including meningitis) from these bacteria because their immune system is not fully developed. Being in daycare, having school-aged brothers and sisters, and living with lots of other people can also increase your risk of getting Hib disease.
  • In New Zealand vaccination against Hib disease is free as part of the National Immunisation Schedule, for babies at 6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months and 15 months of age. Read more about haemophilus influenzae.

The MMR vaccine offers protection against measles, mumps and rubella infections. Meningitis can sometimes occur as a complication of mumps. Measles and rubella can cause encephalitis (an infection of the brain). In New Zealand, the MMR vaccine is free as part of the childhood immunisation schedule, for children at 15 months and 4 years of age. Read more about MMR vaccine.

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. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.

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

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

Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

Free helplines

Link to Māori Pharmacists website

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr Katie Walland, Advanced Trainee, Infectious Diseases, Waikato Hospital

Last reviewed:

Page last updated: