Te Whatu Ora health specialists are encouraging young people aged 13 to 25 who are living in or about to move into close living situations, to make sure they’re immunised against meningococcal disease during the free catch-up period ending next month.

Te Whatu Ora Director, Prevention, Alana Ewe-Snow says, “Rangatahi getting ready for boarding schools, university residence halls and military barracks can be protected from meningococcal disease with free immunisations. It’s best to be vaccinated before you move into a close living situation.

“Meningococcal disease can develop and become deadly in just a few hours or have serious long-term effects. It can be difficult to recognise because it can look like other illnesses, such as the flu. The disease can spread through close contact such as living in the same household, sharing eating utensils or toothbrushes, kissing, coughing, and sneezing.

“Students and young people living in communal accommodation are among the groups most at risk and should be aware of the symptoms,” says Alana.


Symptoms can develop suddenly and include:

    • a high fever
    • headache
    • sleepiness
    • joint and muscle pain
    • a stiff neck
    • dislike of bright lights
    • vomiting
    • a rash of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises
    • crying and refusing to eat in infants.


The Meningococcal B and Meningococcal ACWY vaccines are free for those aged 13 to 25 years who are entering their first year of close living situations like boarding schools, residence halls, or school hostels.

“Until 28 February 2024, free Meningococcal B vaccines are also available for people aged 13 to 25 in any year of living in an eligible close living situation,” Alana says.

In the past year there have been 57 cases of meningococcal disease across the motu, 16 of these in youth aged 15 to 24. In 2023, there was one death from meningococcal disease.


Alana says, “Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but early diagnosis and treatment is very important. If you suspect your child, roommate or friend has meningococcal disease, seek immediate medical advice.”


“More information is available at immunise.health.nz or check Healthpoint for a location offering Meningococcal vaccines near you.”




Media contact: hnzmedia@health.govt.nz