Meningococcal B immunisation programme and MeNZB™ vaccine

This page provides information about the past meningococcal B immunisation programme which used the MeNZB™ vaccine.

If you suspect meningococcal disease or have any other concerns, contact your doctor without delay, or call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 at any hour of the day or night, even if you have already been seen by a health professional.

Meningococcal B immunisation programme

In the late 1990s New Zealand scientists noted an increasing number of cases of meningococcal disease linked to one particular strain of the meningococcal B bacterium.

A vaccine, MeNZB™, was developed to protect young people (those at highest risk) against this strain, which was called ‘the epidemic strain’. This vaccine offered no protection against the other types of meningococcal bacteria which can also cause meningococcal disease (including groups A, C, Y, W135, and other strains of group B). The MeNZB™ vaccine was introduced as a short-term measure to reduce risk during an epidemic, as it was not expected to provide life-long protection.

Between 2004 and 2006 New Zealand offered free MeNZB™ vaccination to anyone under the age of 20. Routine immunisation for babies and preschoolers continued until June 2008. The last phase of this programme, immunisation for people with a high medical risk, ended in March 2011.

In all, more than 1.1 million young New Zealanders received the MeNZB™ vaccine during this immunisation programme.

Effectiveness of the MeNZB™ campaign

The number of people developing meningococcal disease due to the epidemic strain of meningococcal B has significantly decreased - from over 300 cases in 2001 to less than 30 cases in 2010. As a result vaccination is no longer needed to control the epidemic. The MeNZB™ vaccine was developed specifically to curb the epidemic of this particular strain of meningococcal disease and is no longer available in New Zealand.

The meningococcal B epidemic waned faster than would have been expected if there had been no intervention, however it is important to remember that even though there are now fewer cases, the disease has not entirely disappeared.

Related information

For information about meningococcal disease, go to the Meningococcal disease section.

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