Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Image of high school students to illustrate the free meningococcal vaccine for Australian teenagers.

Image of high school students to illustrate the free meningococcal vaccine for Australian teenagers.
beginning of content

Free meningococcal vaccine to help protect Australian teenagers

Blog post | 05 Nov 2018

More than 1 million Australian teenagers will receive a free meningococcal vaccine over the next 4 years, once it's been added to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) in April 2019. 

Meningococcal disease is a rare but life-threatening infection that, if it enters the bloodstream, can cause meningitis and sepsis (septicaemia). Meningococcal infections can start suddenly and become serious very quickly, potentially causing life-long disabilities or death in about 1 in 10 cases. 

There are 13 known types (strains) of meningococcal, and vaccines are available for 5 of them: A, C, W, Y and B.  

Teens to receive the ACWY vaccine   

Adolescents aged 14 to 16 years in every state and territory will receive one jab at school that will help protect them against meningococcal types A, C, W and Y. 

Young people aged 15 to 19 who have not already received the vaccine in school will also be eligible for the free vaccine through their GP (sometimes called a 'catch-up program').

What about meningococcal B? 

There is also vaccine for the 'B' strain of meningococcal, but unless you live in South Australia, you will need to pay for it – since it has not been added to the NIP.

South Australia recently became the first state to provide free meningococcal B vaccines to babies and young children. The SA Government also plans to roll out an immunisation program for meningococcal B for adolescents aged 15 to 21 from February 2019. 

The signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease 

Knowing the signs and symptoms of meningococcal is important. Last year, there were 382 cases of the disease reported in Australia and 28 deaths caused by meningococcal disease.

In babies and young children, common symptoms of meningococcal disease include (but are not limited to): 

  • fever
  • refusing food
  • being irritable or unsettled
  • drowsiness
  • a high, moaning cry
  • sensitivity to light
  • pale or blotchy skin
  • a purple-red rash or bruising that does not turn skin-coloured when you press on it with a finger or the side of a clear drinking glass 

In older children and adults, common symptoms of meningococcal disease include (but are not limited to):

If you are worried that you or someone you care for could have meningococcal, you should seek help immediately. See your doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. 

If you’re not sure what to do, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse.

For more information 

For more information about meningococcal disease, visit the Immunisation Coalition. Learn more about the meningococcal vaccines at the Department of Health’s immunisation website. And for trusted information concerning general immunisation in your state or territory, click on the relevant link below:

Want more like this?

For health and wellbeing news you can use, go to the healthdirect blog.

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo