Meningococcal disease is a serious illness that can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and/or septicaemia (blood poisoning). It is caused by a bacterial infection, with cases seen all year round.
The bacteria that causes this disease is called Neisseria meningitidis, of which there are many different types (serogroups). The most common types that cause disease in Australia are serogroups A, B, C, W and Y. Approximately ten per cent of the population carry the bacteria in their nose and throats and do not have any symptoms or illness.
However, the small number of people who develop meningococcal disease can become unwell very quickly. Despite treatment, between five and ten per cent of people with meningococcal disease die.
How is it prevented?
Vaccination is the best way to protect against meningococcal disease.
There are two groups of vaccines currently available in Australia:
1. Meningococcal ACWY vaccines which protect against serogroups A, C, W and Y
A meningococcal ACWY vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program for:
- Babies at 12 months of age
- Adolescents 15-19 years (offered in Year 10 through the School Immunisation Program)
- For people with certain conditions that put them at high risk of disease
While not funded, any person from 6 weeks of age who wants to protect themselves against meningococcal disease is recommended to get this vaccine.
2. Meningococcal B vaccines which protect against some strains of serogroup B
Beginning in early 2024, the Queensland MenB Vaccination Program will provide free meningococcal B (menB) vaccines to eligible Queensland infants, children and adolescents.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (less than 2 years of age) and people with specific medical risk factors for invasive meningococcal disease are currently eligible for free menB vaccine through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
The Queensland MenB Vaccination Program will make menB vaccines available for eligible infants, children and adolescents in addition to NIP eligible groups.
Currently, menB vaccine is available for purchase on the private market for those who are not eligible under the NIP. You can discuss your family’s vaccination needs with your immunisation provider such as your GP.
For more information about meningococcal disease and eligibility for funded vaccines, see the Queensland Health website: Meningococcal Disease (health.qld.gov.au)
Information on meningococcal disease is also available from: