Meningococcal vaccines: Eligibility, recommendations and supply

On 5 December, Northland District Health Board starts a targeted three-week vaccination programme to halt the spread of a strain of meningococcal disease (W strain). They are offering free vaccinations to children and young people aged 9 months to 4 years (inclusive) and 13 to 19 years (inclusive) who live in Northland. PHARMAC has procured a supply of Meningococcal ACWY vaccines for this programme.

There have been increasing numbers of cases of Meningococcal W disease reported in New Zealand since 2017 but there are no confirmed community outbreaks elsewhere. The Ministry of Health acknowledges that there has been an increasing number of families requesting meningococcal vaccinations but advises that outside Northland the recommendations for meningococcal vaccination in the Immunisation Handbook should continue to be followed.

Publicly funded (free) Meningococcal ACWY vaccine is available from general practices for people who meet the following criteria:

  • patients pre- or post-splenectomy or with functional asplenia
  • patients with HIV, complement deficiency (acquired, including monoclonal antibody therapy against C5, or inherited) or who are pre- or post-solid organ transplant
  • HSCT (bone marrow transplant) patients
  • patients following immunosuppression
  • close contacts of meningococcal cases.

GPs and other health professionals wishing to access meningococcal for patients who meet the above criteria should order the vaccine from Propharma in the usual way, as with any other funded vaccine.

In addition, meningococcal vaccines are recommended but not funded for the following people:

  • laboratory workers regularly handling meningococcal cultures
  • adolescents and young adults living in communal accommodation (eg, in a hostel or at boarding school, in military accommodation, in correctional facilities or in other long-term institutions)
  • people who are travelling to high-risk countries (WHO/International travel and health) or before the Hajj.

Meningococcal vaccines can be privately purchased from general practices and (for those aged 16 and over) from vaccinating pharmacies.

Private supplies of Meningococcal ACWY vaccine are separate from the publicly funded vaccines noted above, but suppliers have reported high demand in recent weeks and there have been intermittent local vaccine shortages. Stocks of the vaccine are likely to be limited for the foreseeable future due to global demand but suppliers are doing what they can to secure more vaccines for New Zealand. The wholesaler (Healthcare Logistics) does not take back orders but will advise via its website when stock is available.

Meningococcal B is still the most prevalent strain of the disease in New Zealand, and supplies of the vaccine Bexsero are available to protect against it – this is not currently publicly funded for any groups. 

Members of the public seeking meningococcal immunisation should check with their GP or pharmacist whether they have the vaccine in stock before making an appointment.
 

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