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Protect Yourself from Meningitis

Various strains of meningococcal bacteria cause a rare disease either by ‘blood poisoning’ (septicaemia) and/or ‘meningitis’ (infection of the membranes around the brain), both of which are potentially fatal.

Meningococci are transmitted by droplet aerosol or secretions from the nasopharynx of colonised persons. Close and prolonged contact- eg kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters, sharing eating/drinking utensils –facilitates the spread of the bacteria. The bacteria attach to and multiply on the mucosal cells of the nasopharynx. It is believed that 10%-20% of the population carries meningitis bacteria at any given time. In a small (less than 1%) of colonised persons the organism penetrates the mucosal cells and enters the bloodstream causing disease as above.

The Ministry of Health currently recommend vaccination against meningococcal C disease for young adults in hostel-type accommodation. The potential risk relates to the population density of living conditions in this type of accommodation; note this level of density may exist in some rented accommodation.

These vaccines are not funded by the Ministry of Health.

Moorhouse Medical’s Vaccination Clinic is able to offer 2 choices of vaccine for Meningococcal disease.

You need to book an appointment with the Vaccination Clinic by speaking with reception.

1. MENACTRA – Provides at short term and probable long term protection against Meningitis A, Meningitis C, Meningitis Y and Meningitis W-135 ( $145 for vaccine and visit fee) This is a polysaccharide vaccine conjugated to a small dose of diphtheria toxoid.

Effectiveness: at least short term, Ministry of Health recommend a booster after 5 years for longer term immunity.

2. MENCEVAX ACWY – Provides short term, 2-3 years protection against Meningitis A, Meningitis C, Meningitis W and Meningitis Y ($65 for vaccine and visit fee). This is a polysaccharide unconjugated vaccine

Effectiveness: 2-3 years

Polysaccharide vaccines: polysaccharides are strings of sugars – some bacteria have polysaccharides on their surface and these are used to produce the vaccine. They do not induce immune memory so immunity is relatively short-lived. They give little or no protection against nasopharyngeal carriage of meningitis bacteria. The response rate is reduced with repeated boosters.

Conjugate vaccines: these vaccines are joined to a protein – often a toxoid. They produce an immune response that develops an immune memory. In addition they have been shown to reduce nasopharyngeal carriage, therefore reduce disease transmission and contribute to herd immunity.