Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. At least 12 groups have been identified, including groups A, B, C, Y and W (previously called W-135). In NZ over 2009–2018, meningococcal group B caused 53–72% of disease, and meningococcal groups C, Y and W, including the very virulent group W, caused 25–46% of disease. Meningococcal group A rarely causes disease in NZ.
The periods of greatest risk for Meningococcal infection is the 0-5yrs and those 15-20yrs.
There are 2 vaccines available to cover the most common strains – Bexero (Menigococcal B) and Menactra or Nimenrix (Meningococcal ACW&Y).
Meningococcal vaccines are available for all infants, teenagers and young adults (15-20yr olds), particularly those in their first year of hostel accommodation, whether at Boarding School or Halls of Residence. The vaccines are also recommended for children/students who take part in regular sports meets and large social gatherings.
Vaccination is available, providing protection against a number of NZ strains of the disease for up to 5 years. These vaccines are available at, and recommended by, Amuri Community Health Centre.
Bexero is a 2 dose course with doses spaced 8 weeks apart (However infants under 12mths would require a 3rd vaccine at 12mth of age). Menactra or Nimenrix are single dose vaccines.
Now is a great time to consider vaccinating and preparing those going to boarding schools or halls of residence in 2020.
Some young people would have received vaccination against Meningococcal B in the MeNZB vaccination programme between 2004 and 2008. This only provided short term protection against group B strain during the epidemic and offers NO other protection against other strains. Those who received these vaccines would require further booster vaccination to ensure continued cover.
Meningococcal bacteria can cause disease more quickly than the immune system can generate protection. Therefore, having existing circulating antibodies is required for protection against meningococcal disease. Vaccination provides this. Awareness and prevention play a vital role in minimising cases and bettering outcomes.
Please do call to discuss this further, ask any questions or to book in for vaccination.