Why get immunised against meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a very serious infection that can cause severe scarring, loss of limbs, brain damage and death.

Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect you from meningococcal disease.

There are five main types of meningococcal disease, called A, B, C, W and Y. Vaccines can protect against all these types, but different vaccines protect against different types.

Who should get immunised against meningococcal disease?

Anyone who wants to protect themselves against meningococcal disease can talk to their doctor about getting immunised.  The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is currently reviewing its recommendations. The most recent advice can be found in the National Centre Immunisation Research and Surveillance fact sheet on meningococcal disease.

Anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease can be offered vaccination with meningococcal B (from 6 weeks of age) and meningococcal ACWY (from 2 months of age).

Meningococcal immunisation is recommended for:

  • children aged 12 months, for free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) (meningococcal C)
  • adolescents (meningococcal ACWY)
  • babies and young children, especially children under two years old (meningococcal B),
  • people aged 15 to 19 years (meningococcal B),
  • teenagers and young adults living together in close quarters, such as dormitories and military barracks (meningococcal B),
  • people who are travelling overseas, especially to places where meningococcal disease is more common, or people travelling to mass gatherings like the Hajj (meningococcal ACWY),
  • people who have certain blood disorders or are taking treatment for certain blood disorders (meningococcal B and ACWY),
  • people with weakened immune systems, such as people without a functioning spleen, people living with HIV and people who have had a stem cell transplant (meningococcal B and ACWY), and
  • laboratory workers who work with the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease (meningococcal B and ACWY).

People under 20 years old, refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age can get meningococcal C vaccine for free under the NIP if they did not receive the vaccine in childhood. This is called catch-up vaccination.

Where can you get a meningococcal immunisation?

Meningococcal immunisations are available in each Australian state and territory.

See Where can I get immunised? for information.

How do you get immunised against meningococcal disease?

You can get meningococcal vaccines on their own or as a combination vaccine. Different vaccines protect against different types of meningococcal disease. They are all given as a needle.

The most recent advice can be found in the National Centre Immunisation Research and Surveillance fact sheets on meningococcal disease.

Your doctor can tell you which vaccine they will use for your meningococcal immunisation.

Do I need to pay for meningococcal immunisation?

Vaccines covered by the NIP are free for people who are eligible. See the NIP Schedule to find out which vaccines you or people in your family are eligible to receive.

Eligible people get the vaccine for free, but your health care provider (for example, your doctor) may charge a consultation fee for the visit. You can check this when you make your appointment.

Meningococcal ACWY vaccines may be free for adolescents or certain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through state and territory programs. Contact your state or territory health department for details.

If you are not eligible for free vaccine, you may need to pay for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider can give you more information.

What are the possible side effects of meningococcal immunisation?

All medicines and vaccines can have side effects. Most of the time they are not serious.

For most people, the chance of having a serious side effect from a vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you caught the disease.

Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects of meningococcal vaccines, or if you or your child have symptoms that worry you after having a meningococcal vaccine.

Common side effects of meningococcal vaccines include:

  • pain, redness and swelling where the needle went in
  • fever (especially for meningococcal B vaccine)
  • feeling unsettled or tired
  • decreased appetite
  • headache.

The Consumer Medicine Information links in How do you get immunised against meningococcal disease? list the side effects of each vaccine.

More information

Contacts

If you need advice or more information about immunisation, go to our Immunisation contacts page.

Last updated: 
22 December 2017