Meningitis vaccines

Key points about meningitis vaccines

  • Vaccines that can protect against meningitis include vaccines targeting meningococcal, pneumococcal, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and measles infections.
  • Find out more about vaccines to prevent meningitis.
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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, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and measles 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's 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. Read more about meningococcal disease.

There are different meningococcal vaccines registered in Aotearoa New Zealand to cover the different meningococcal groups.

  • Menactra® , MenQuadfi® or Nimenrix® overs groups A, C, W, Y 
  • Bexsero® covers group B

Bexsero is available on the childhood National Immunisation Programme

Bexsero is available for babies at 3 months, 5 months, and 12 months old. It will protect your pēpi (baby) against meningococcal B. Read more about Bexsero.(external link)

Tamariki and adults with high risk medical conditions

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 in their first year of entering communal accommodation.

Menactra® , MenQuadfi®, and Bexsero® vaccines are free for people aged 13 to 25 years during their first year of living in boarding school hostel, university hall of residence, military barracks or prison, or 3 months before they move in. 

From 1 July 2024, Nimenrix®  is funded for eligible tamariki under 12 months of age as part of the special group programme. Read more about the 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 Aotearoa 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.

Funded and unfunded vaccines can be given by your nurse, doctor, healthcare provider, and some pharmacies. Find a provider near you on the Healthpoint(external link) website by choosing which vaccine you are looking for and entering your address.

  • If you're eligible for a free vaccination, there won't be a cost for the vaccine, but there may be an administration fee.

  • If you're not eligible to get a free vaccination, you'll need to pay.

  • Pharmacists who are trained as vaccinators can administer the MMR vaccine to children 3 years of age and over, and meningococcal vaccines to people 16 years of age and over.

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

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

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

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