Meningococcal vaccines

The MenB vaccine was added to the National Immunisation Schedule for babies on 1 March 2023. All tamariki under 5 years old can catch up for free. There are also 2 meningococcal vaccines available for rangatahi (young people) 13 to 25 years old in certain close-living situations.

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).

Meningococcal disease can develop rapidly and be life-threatening

Meningococcal disease can develop rapidly and be life-threatening. It can develop and 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.

More about meningococcal – IMAC

When the MenB vaccine is given

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

How to book a vaccination appointment

MenB vaccine catch-ups

Tamariki under 5 years old

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.

Rangatahi (young people) in certain close-living situations

Rangatahi aged 13 to 25 years old living in close-living situations can get free MenB vaccines until 28 February 2024.

Close-living situations include boarding schools, hostels, halls of residence, military barracks, and prisons. It does not include flatting.

Catching up on missed immunisations

Additional meningococcal vaccines

Rangatahi entering into, or in their first year, of certain close living situations

Rangatahi aged 13 to 25 years who are entering into, or in their first year of certain close-living situations, can get a free MenACYW vaccine.

Close-living situations include boarding schools, hostels, halls of residence, military barracks, and prisons. It does not include flatting.

If you have previously had meningococcal vaccinations, get immunised again if your last meningococcal vaccinations were more than 5 years ago.

Both MenACYW and MenB vaccinations are needed 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’ve been in close contact with someone with meningococcal disease. these include the:

  • MenB vaccine
  • MenACYW vaccine
  • meningococcal C vaccine (given to young babies).

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

How to book a vaccination appointment

If you’re not eligible for a free vaccine

If you, or your tamariki, are not eligible for free immunisations and you’d 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. 

Which vaccines are used

MenB vaccine

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

Bexsero information – Medsafe (PDF)


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)

MenQuadfi information – Medsafe (PDF)

Meningococcal C vaccine

High-risk babies under 12 months may be offered NeisVac-C to protect against meningococcal C.

NeisVac-C information – Medsafe (PDF)

[Abbie] My name is Abbie, I'm 18 years old and next year I'm going to be heading off to the University of Canterbury and I'm doing a Bachelor of Science where I'm going to major in medicinal chemistry.

[Jayden] My name is Jayden and I'm 17 years old. I'm heading up to the University of Auckland next year to study engineering. Just last week I got the meningococcal vaccine to protect myself.

My medical centre emailed advertising about it that it was government funded, so I decided to get it.

The email advertised it as a good protection for staying in a hall of residence where there's so many people in a confined space.

[Abi] I had the meningococcal vaccine early last week I learned that meningitis can actually be quite dangerous and can come really bad, really quickly. [Jayden] It didn't hurt at all I just got the vaccine a sore arm for a couple days but that's just the normal.

[Abi] I've got all my childhood vaccines from very young to now so for me this is just another vaccine I need to get to protect me against another disease.

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.

Serious reactions are rare. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Call 111 if you’re worried your child is having a serious reaction.

How to treat common reactions

Advice for children under 2 years old

The meningococcal B 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.

If you have any questions or concerns when you’re home, call your doctor or nurse, or Healthline on 0800 611 116.

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.

Page last updated: 23 Feb 2024