Meningococcal disease and meningitis

Meningococcal disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria. Mauri Ora offers publicly-funded vaccinations to eligible students.

There has been an increase in meningococcal disease in New Zealand over the past few years. Know the warning signs, and respond immediately if you suspect someone has this disease.

Student Health recommends that students be vaccinated, particularly those living in halls of residence. Students who are eligible for publicly funded services, aged 13 - 25 years inclusive, who will be living, or are currently living in a university hall of residence, can have the Menactra vaccine (A,C,Y,W-135) at no cost. Students are encouraged to begin their immunisation cycle as soon as possible, to ensure they have coverage for the start of the academic year. For students in their second or greater year of halls, Menactra vaccination is not funded but is available at Mauri Ora.

Meningococcal B vaccine Bexsero is now funded (from 1 March 2023) for people aged 13 - 25 years who are entering into their first year of living in halls of residence. Students in this age group, who are in their second (or subsequent year) of living in halls of residence, will also be funded with a catch-up program.

For international students, meningococcal vaccination is not funded but is available at Mauri Ora.

Meningococcal meningitis

Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria neiserria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus. It is most common in winter and spring. There are approximately 100 cases each year in New Zealand and over half of these cases are in the under 5 age group. There are 5 strains of bacterial meningitis that cause disease in humans - A, B, C, Y and W. Approx. 50% of cases are caused by Group B.

Infection with meningococcus can rapidly lead to meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain), septicaemia (overwhelming infection of the blood) and pneumonia.

Symptoms of meningitis in an adult

Symptoms depend on the type of infection, but might include:

  • shortness of breath
  • abdominal pain
  • joint swelling
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • a rash

Typically in the initial stages it can mimic a flu-like illness.

Who is most at risk?

This infection targets young children (under 5), immunocompromised, adolescents, Māori, and Pacific persons. Other risk factors including over-crowded living conditions, and hostel-type accommodation. You may also be at risk if you are in very close contact with someone who has had the disease.

Vaccine information

For maximum protection from all 5 strains of meningococcus, we recommend Menactra and Bexsero injections, given together, then a second Bexsero a minimum of 4 weeks later. 

  • Menactra - protects against A, C, Y and W, can be given from 2 years of age. A single injection offers protection within weeks of the first injection and should provide at least 5 years of protection. At 5 years a further dose will renew this protection. This is a solid choice if you are thinking of travelling at some stage as it will cover strains found overseas, as well as strain C. This together with Bexsero provide the best protection available.
  • Bexsero - protects against B and can be given from 2 months of age. For adults 2 doses one month apart are recommended and protection begins within weeks of the first injection. Current evidence suggests protection lasts 7 or more years. It is unclear if further doses will be required.

These vaccines are 90-100% effective. The safety profile of these vaccines is excellent. Common side-effects are minor and include fever; pain or redness around the injection site; fatigue and malaise; irritability. Very rarely, an allergic response to the vaccine may occur, leading to anaphylaxis or a rash.

If you wish to organise immunisation or discuss this further please book an appointment with a Nurse at Student Health by calling 04 463 5308.